Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ann Rinaldi Defends Historical Fiction

From PW, natch: In Defense of Historical Fiction by Ann Rinaldi.

We've been hearing that "kids don't read historical" for years, and yet the historical keeps on chuggin'. Rinaldi talks about why.
Young people write to me daily to tell me they have grown up with my books, that my books got them through some of the worst times of their lives, that when they visited historical places with their parents they already knew everything there was to know about them, that when they studied history in school they found out it was no longer boring. That they now understood about their country. And finally that, reading my books, they had had fun and enjoyment and not realized they were learning. And wow, did that neat stuff really happen? And when is the next one coming out?
You tell 'em, Ann.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What's New

In my webby wanderings, I ran across Started by a YA librarian and still maintained apparently by hand and the graciousness of publishers that send the webmasters their catalogs,
this is a website that collects and sends forth new YA titles, alerting you to all the good stuff as it comes out. How freakin' handy is that?

I've already discovered a sequel to Neal Schusterman's Everlost. This one is titled Everwild and is coming out in November. Whee!!

Do we have to discuss how much I love that it includes RSS feeds? Keri Adams and Stefan Hayden, you are made of 100% undiluted awesome.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Envelope Please

This weekend was the LA Festival of Books, always a good time. In conjunction, the LA Times presented their Book Awards.

This year's winner was Terry Pratchett, for Nation. Huzzah!

Oh, and apparently there were other books awarded for other genres, but since it's not young adult literature, I don't really care. Does that make me a bad person? Oh, it does? Okay, in that case click through for the rest of the winners.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Admit It, You're Going to Ask For This Cake Now

Courtesy of Cake Wrecks: A Twilight Cake.

I hope it's at least chocolate. There's got to be something good about that cake.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Another One for the Proud to Read YA File

From an unexpected source: HealthNews recently ran an article on the power of young adult literature. Not only do they like it for the kids, they defend the right of adults to read it as well. They sum it up as sweetly as any of us would like in the last lines:
All these things, unbelievably strong friendships, courage, and moral dilemmas of epic proportions are all contained in young adult novels. So, if over the next few weeks, a young adult title catches your eye, and you shrug and think that would be juvenile, rethink that choice, and give it a try. It may turn out to be the best book you’ve ever read.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Book Review: Cycler by Lauren McLaughlin

Book: Cycler
Author: Lauren McLaughlin
Published: 2008

Jill hates that time of the month. The way her body changes, the weird cravings, the sick dreams. No bones about it, turning into a guy for four days each month is terrible. Compared to that, having her period's actually not half-bad.

She's always been able to count on the regularity of her transformations, and on being able to suppress all her memories of life as Jack. But now her cycle is all out of whack. To make it worse, Jack's memories and emotions are creeping into her life as Jill and disrupting the perfect life she’s carefully built up.

Is the world ready for the real Jill--and the real Jack? Ready or not, here they come.

In this novel, McLaughlin asks questions about both gender and sexual identity, and leaves it to us to answer them. What does it mean to be female? To be male? Jill (and her mother) have literally caged away any hint that she does not fall into the rigid pattern of feminine thought and behavior. To them, boys and men (and by extension, masculine behavior) are not merely other, but inimical. They are strange beasts that must be contained.

But as anyone knows, nobody and nothing falls into rigid patterns. Jill begins to be more open to mutability when she falls for a bisexual boy just as Jack begins to fight for his right to exist. (By the way, Lauren McLaughlin, big big kudos for not going, "Well, isn't that handy, someone who can love both Jack AND Jill!" So easy, so wrong.)

When I heard there was a sequel in the works, titled (Re)Cycler and due out in September, I did a happy dance. While the ending is a good one, there are still a number of issues to be resolved for Jill, Jack, and everyone around them. I'm looking forward to seeing how McLaughlin does it.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Wait, We Still Have to Have This List?

The ALA put out their annual most frequently challenged books list. To nobody's surprise, it still has penguins, daemons, and scary stories to tell in the dark. Let's hear it for consistency, people.

My eye was caught by #9:
The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
To echo a co-worker: "Do they know it was written for adults?"

And yes, okay, it was probably from angry parents of high-schoolers reading it for class, but the disconnect still makes me laugh. And then weep.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Perfectly Beastly Movie

Remember Alex Flinn's rather neato Beauty and the Beast retelling, Beastly? Turns out it's being made into a movie! Woohoo!

So far, info on the adaptation is skimpy, but we do know that Vanessa Hudgens is slated to star. Yeah, High School Musical girl. Well, okay. We'll see.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Original Anarchist

Found this one on the Child_Lit listserv: A Girl in Full from Haaretz-Israel News--an article on Pippi Longstocking, there known as Bilbi.

I initially thought, "Oh, how interesting, Pippi in translation." (Forgetting, of course, in my US-centric fashion, that Pippi is already in translation, having been written originally in Swedish. D'oh.) Then I got to readin'.
"You have all the elements that create a hit," says Prof. Adir Cohen, an expert in children's literature from the Department of Education at the University of Haifa. "There is imagination, effusive humor, the breaching of frameworks, readable language and characters that readers can identify with. The nonconformism is marvelous, and so are the swipes at sacred cows, such as school and the police."
It's a fantastic article about one of the wildest kids in children's lit. While I was prepared for an account of how Pippi affected one particular country and culture, I realized that just as her appeal is universal, so are her effects. It's long, but you won't be sorry you read it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Redefining Yourself

. . . or in this case, myself.

I've seen a lot of posts lately about the book blog biz itself. A few years back, we were a new phenomenon and it was anything goes. Now things have settled, and a bunch of us are stepping back, taking a look at what we do, and going, "Okay, let's get some definitions in here, please." I've seen posts on chasing the next big title vs undiscovered gems, on unwanted ARCs, on blogger/author netiquette. Now here's my little contribution to our shared identity crisis.

I've been pouting a little lately because I don't get too many ARCs. Then I realized that my list of books to read, known to longtime readers as the Blue Journal of Books I Gotta Read Before I Die, already runs to three volumes. (I wish I was kidding about that.) And those are books I genuinely want to read based on recommendations from bloggers, parents, kids, other librarians, or even seeing them around and going, "Hmm, gotta read that someday."

Granted, there are ARCs I would sell extraneous organs for (ahemChasing Fireahem). On the other hand, there are plenty of books in my Blue Journal that I look forward to, no matter who else has read and reviewed and in some cases even given them medals. And if the Next Hot Book is really all that, I'll get to it in time.

One of the shared joys of librarianship and book blogging is that older titles and authors whose books don't get as much publicity get a chance in the spotlight. At a bookstore or in the review journals, it's all about the new and hot. But libraries and blogs have the chance to show off older titles or less well-known authors.

So I'm thinking of myself as a backlist blogger these days and I've stopped pouting. Just as there are millions of books and zillions of kids out there, there's a spot in the book blogging world for everyone.

Monday, April 20, 2009

This is Awfully Neat

One of my big thrills is when I encounter something in real life that I first read in a book. For instance, in sixth grade, I was gobsmacked when I realized that the mitochondria in Madeline L'Engle's The Wind in the Door were real parts of our cells. (Of course, the teacher had no idea what I was talking about when I asked for the farandolae.)

I happened across this picture at the Shorpy blog, which posts historical photographs, and instantly thought of Karen Hesse's 2008 MG novel, Brooklyn Bridge, which takes place during the building of New York's favorite river-crossing apparatus. I keep squinting at the background to spot one of the kids under the bridge.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Battle of the Books, 1st Round

I've been hearing about SLJ's Battle of the (Kid's) Books all week. Now that the dust has settled for a moment, let's check in and see how things shaped up.

There are some surprises (I'm astounded that Nation didn't make it beyond round 1) and some tough battles to come (poor John Green now has to choose between We Are the Ship and The Hunger Games. Hoo, mama). What do you think of the winners? Who's your money on for the shiny gold medal?

Round two commences on Monday. To the trenches!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Book Review: Gone by Kathleen Jeffrie Johnson

Book: Gone
Author: Kathleen Jeffrie Johnson
Published: 2007

Nobody's ever stayed with Connor. He grew up with alcoholic parents whom he could never trust to put him before the booze. Now he's living with a great-aunt, but he's always longed for the security of a real family.

Suddenly, there's Ms Timms. Corinna. Once his teacher, now something much, much more. Even though he's seventeen and she thirty-one, this is love. He knows it. Has Connor finally found the one person who will always stay?

The jacket copy of this book makes much of the student-teacher angle of this book, but it didn't wind up being that important. While Johnson makes it clear that they noticed each other while he was her student, the relationship doesn't truly get underway until after he has graduated high school.

Corinna is a conundrum--is she using him? does she love him? we never quite figure that out--but that really doesn't matter. What matters is what Connor feels about the relationship. He sees in it his salvation, his chance to be first in someone's (anyone's) heart.

What he doesn't realize (and we do, quite quickly) is that his aunt, his friends, and even his next-door neighbors are a kind of assembled family who all love him and watch out for him. But he insists on holding them at arm's length, scrupulously repaying his aunt for any money she spends on him and resisting his best friend's efforts to understand what's going on. This blindess may be difficult for some readers to sympathize with, but he eventually gets there.

Counter to the advertising, don't go into this book expecting a salacious tale of clandestine molestation. Instead, prepare yourself for a story about a young man learning that love comes in many forms, and the one that seems obvious isn't the one that's going to stay.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A Tiny Little Smidge of Friday Glee

It's been a stressful day. I need this video. You probably do too.

Oh, I feel better now.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

AfterEllen on YA GLBT books

A few weeks back, ran a story on the evolving state of GLBT stories and characters in YA. It talks about a number of authors and a lot of books (where is my Blue Journal?), but the thrust boils down to this:
Queer teen characters are no longer limited to coming-out stories. They are now able to deal with ordinary teen issues like dating without the added angst of struggling with their sexual orientation.
That's always been one of my favorite things about books like Far From Xanadu. Once the coming-out (even to yourself) has been achieved, a gay or lesbian teen still has all the normal heartaches and headaches of growing up to handle, just like their straight counterparts. Finding common ground with somebody you never thought you could identify with is one of the jobs of literature.

The article also discusses the rising number of minority GLBT characters and how their culture and sexuality intersect (and in some cases, explode), plus a comparison of the different levels of explicitness in gay vs. lesbian novels.

Check out the article for more, and some great book suggestions.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

PW on Multi-platform Books

You kids today. In my time, we had to read books by hand. Using our fingers to turn the pages. Video? Audio? Pah! We made video and audio in our heads! Sometimes we got a stuffed animal with the book, and ya know what? We were happy! You're just spoiled, the lot of you. Get off my dang lawn!

All old-fartness aside, there does seem to be a rise in the number of books that have multimedia components--not merely tie-ins, but necessary elements to understanding and following the story.

Scholastic's 39 Clues series was in the nature of an experiment, but it's an experiment that a number of other publishers are trying as well. Check out this story on multimedia publishing over at Publisher's Weekly for more.

What think'st thou? Of course, it's all about the almighty dollar, but are publishers pandering to increasingly fleeting juvenile attention, or are they capitalizing on the new literacy?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Kidliterate is Awesome

Do you doubt me? Then read this post: An Open Letter to . . . People and prepare to have your doubts smithereened.

This has been bugging me lately--not the feeling that I should be reading "grownup" books, but the reactions of others seeing that I love reading kids' books. From the standup comic who sneered at his dates reading Harry Potter, to the co-worker who told me (jokingly, but he said it all the same) "Grow up!" I'm getting just a little sick of people thinking I am less of a book lover if the books I love are intended for a group that can't pour themselves a glass of wine while they read.

The first step is letting people know you aren't ashamed--then maybe they'll start wondering why they think you should be.

Thanks for the rant, Melissa. It was just what I needed to hear.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Amazon Follow-Up

The word on the internets is that Amazon is blaming a "glitch" for yesterday's furor over books with feminist and GLBT content losing their sales ranks. Interestingly, the glitch seems to have been ongoing since February. The other word on the internets, of course, is #glitchmyass.

Anyway, this is my little contribution to letting Amazon know how pissed off I am. I'm canceling my associate's ID and linking to for book reviews and further info from now on. The extra bonus, besides not having to sign into Amazon all the time, is that shows you local libraries that own the book you're looking at, and I think I'd rather support libraries than Amazon.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Amazon Epic Fail

Most of you have probably heard about this one already. I woke up to a flurry of Twitters about it., in all its wisdom, has decided to strip the sales ranks of books they consider to contain "adult" situations. What does this mean, other than that the authors suddenly have one less thing to obsess over?

Amazon's search results, lists of top sellers, and even suggested books (the "others have bought . . ." thing you get on a particular book's page) are produced using sales ranks. So a book with no sales rank effectively has no power on Amazon, a website that has made seventy-six-squillion dollars (conservative estimate) by spoiling you for choice the minute you express a preference in books, movies, and everything else they sell.

I went poking around and found a list (apparently still being added to) of books that have had their Amazon sales ranks stripped due to containing adult content.

Among those listed are the lesbian-moms classic Heather Has Two Mommies, Alex Sanchez's Rainbow trilogy (Boys, High, and Road) and Linas Alsenas's Gay America (which I happen to know for a fact contains no explicit content). Where's the "adult" in this equation?

This isn't applying across the board yet. Many of Sanchez's other books (most of which have gay characters if not outright romance) still retain their sales ranks. But it's probably only a matter of time.

Some heterotica has made the list (a dubious distinction) but it's overwhelmingly populated by GLBT titles. Which means? "Adult," in this case, is mainly code for "stuff about those nasty gays and lesbians."

You know what happens when a company like Amazon does this? A teen web surfer, trying to find books which reflect his or her experience, hears, "You're alone. You're a freak. Your sexual orientation, or that of your friend/mom/cousin/next door neighbor, is something you should keep behind closed doors, because everybody else is too grossed out by it. Here, have a book about healthy, normal, heterosexual kids who never, ever, ever think about someone of the same sex THAT way. Euuwwwwww. Does your mother know you're making this search?"

I've been an Amazon Associate for awhile now, linking from my reviews and monthly reading roundups. Mainly it's a way to show the covers and give more info about the book because I've made so little in kickbacks that I've never even gotten a check from them. But I know they have made money from me. If you know of a way I can break the huge number of links I've made from my blog to Amazon, let me know in the comments.

For the world's most pervasive book seller to censor in this way, directly targeting the GLBT population, is nothing short of disgusting. Fix this, Amazon.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Young Sherlock Holmes Books

It doesn't have anything to do with the movie from the 80's, by the way.

Apparently the estate of Arthur Conan Doyle has approved the writing of a 3-book YA series about Sherlock Holmes' youth.
The books will begin in the 1860s with the fourteen-year-old Sherlock sent to spend the summer with eccentric relatives as his soldier father heads for India. Sherlock is drawn into a sinister international plot with a brilliantly imagined villain at its heart.
While I got this bit off a British website, it did say world rights, so I have hopes we'll see them over here about the same time. They're tentatively scheduled for next spring.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Wintergirls Behind the Scenes Video

Like everyone else in the YA fan community, I can't wait to read Wintergirls, Laurie Halse Anderson's newest release. Cuz, dude, Laurie Halse Anderson! But also because it's about one of those subjects that's near, if not exactly dear, to my heart: depression that young women (and even some young men) attempt to control by destroying themselves through food, or the lack thereof.

Now, eating-disorder books are a dime a dozen in the teen area of your local public library, and it takes some real shiny writing to stand out from that herd. But, to repeat, Laurie Halse Anderson. I have faith, y'all.

In the video below, Anderson talks a little bit about how and why she wrote the book.

Thanks to Cheryl Rainfield.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

See, I Told You Guys I Had This Article

Found this one (of course) in PW: Books for Film in Bologna. It's a little piece on the preponderance of filmy types at the recent children's book fair in Bologna. Now, besides the fact that it was, y'know, in Italy, there was good reason for their all-expenses-paid trip:
“Kids' and YA publishing have strong footholds in the top Hollywood films” these days, said Gotham Group manager and producer Eddie Gamarra. And it seems to make increasing sense for studios to pursue children's books: looking at the top 10 grossing films of 2008, Gamarra said, “all of them were family movies.”
Why would that be? Read on . . .
[K]ids' books may lend themselves more easily to the medium, said Pender-Coplan. For one thing, “they travel in a way that adult books might not.” Stumbling blocks for adult books—whether a book is '“too American,” for example—are less relevant to children's books, which tend to mine universal themes.
I always thought that the relative length of a children's book also had something to do with it, meaning less to cut. But of course, now somebody's gonna beat me with a copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and call me wrong.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

So What Are You Doing in October?

It's never too early to plan your Halloween costume.

Also, the Third Annual Kidlitosphere Conference, organized by MotherReader (of MotherReader fame), takes place on the 17th in Washington, DC. It is the most fun I've ever had in a large room with a bunch of kidlit-lovin' geeks who use the Internet to tell everyone about their favorite books. Reserve your plane ticket now!

I currently don't know if I'm going to make it, but I hope so!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Cassandra Clare on the End of Mortal Instruments

Good ol' PW. You can count on them for interviews. This one's an author interview with Cassandra Clare. She talks about favorite characters (not allowed; it would be like having a favorite kid), her writing plans for the future (a prequel series) and what it feels like to finish a series like this.
You work so hard for so long and are so involved in the world you’ve created that when it is all over, at first you think, This is so great! I’m done! I never have to look at this again! Then, once it’s all bundled off, you get all sad and nostalgic because you realize that it’s really over.
For my own reasons, I didn't expect to like City of Bones when I picked it up. But a few pages in--it may have even been the first one--I went "Yowza!" and got sucked under. Now, like any good fangirl, I'm slavering for the rest. I'm on the wait list at the library for Book Two (City of Ashes) and bugging our central purchasing department to just buy Book Three (City of Glass) already. Boy, do they hate me.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Mr Popper's Penguins movie

Cheryl Rainfield tells me that the classic Mr Popper's Penguins is set to become a movie. This is about the fifty-seventeenth children's book I've heard of (classic and recent) that's in the pipeline to the theatres. Somewhere, I have a neat article about how and why this is happening so much recently. Until I find that, I'll enjoy thinking of penguinine mayhem.

It does, however, terrify me just a smidge that the writers that the studio picked were also responsible for a movie called Sex Drive. Yikes.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

And You Thought I Was Going to Leave Twilight Alone

Found this one via Fuse #8: the Twilight series in just sixteen panels. Laughed inordinately.

It also satisfied any lingering wisp of desire I ever had to read the second two books in the series. My favorite bit is Jacob's "Phooey." No, I'm not telling you the context. Click through already!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Book Review: The Minister's Daughter by Julie Hearn

Book: The Minister's Daughter
Author: Julie Hearn
Published: 2005

Grace and Patience Madden, the ministers' daughters, are acting strange. Always the sweetest and best-behaved girls in the village, they are suddenly confined to their beds, unable to rise, prey to wild fits and visions. All the signs point to one thing--witchcraft. And the witch could only be wild, clever, illegitimate Nell, granddaughter to the village healer, heir to all her outlandish knowledge.

But there are things nobody knows about Grace Madden except for Nell. Like the identity of the boy Grace has been sneaking out at night to see. Like Grace's secretive visit to Nell's house. Like the due date.

As the old pagan ways of Nell and her grandmother clash with the new Puritan views of the Madden family, dragging the whole village in after them, one thing comes clear--nobody can come out the winner.

Nell's fate has more than a whiff of deus ex machina (really, Julie Hearn? That guy? Really??) but what made this novel memorable for me was the portrayal of the traps that hold both Grace and Nell. In different ways, both girls are bound up in the social norms for girls of their time. The difference is that Grace will do anything to fit them, and Nell chooses the more difficult route of being herself.

As for Patience--when I was done, I Twittered, "Bitch crazy." While she never plays an active part in the main narrative, her confession years later adds dimensions to the story being played out. The force of her rage and resentment nearly fifty years later permeates her "confession," as well as a self-portrayal as an innocent victim that the main storyline casts into doubt.

The Minister's Daughter is a fascinating novel about the petty, human side of a dark time for anyone who was different.

Interesting note: In the original UK edition, the title was The Merrybegot. I have to say I'm behind the switch. While Nell is the character that everything happens to, it's Grace who's the driving force.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Jacqueline Wilson Interview

This is an old one. It's been sitting around in my Google Reader for awhile now, but I'm cleaning up and you get the benefits. The Guardian did an interview with British author Jacqueline Wilson, talking over the inspiration for her books and the less-than-savory reputation she seems to have acquired amongst middle-class parents.
Her stories are about children in moderately difficult circumstances - with friends who bully them, or parents who quarrel or don't have enough money. Standard fare, perhaps, but the difference from so much traditional children's fiction is that these children live, as the author herself once did, in council flats and go to state schools.
She's much more well-known in the UK than she is on this side of the pond, but her books are starting to get more limelight over here.

I was lucky enough to have Wilson herself come talk to a Children's Literature class I was taking while studying abroad. Unfortunately, this was before I had any idea who she was, and I principally remember the number of rings she had on. Dang.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Where the Magic Happened

Courtesy of 100 Scope Notes, Roald Dahl's writing hut, explorable online due to the graciousness of the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre. Apparently it plays nicest with Internet Explorer, although Firefox did all right for me.

I continue to be amazed by the writing space of some very good authors. You feel as it's not big enough, somehow, to contain all what came to life within its walls. Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Reading Roundup March 2009

By the Numbers
Teen: 23
Tween: 11
Children: 24

Teen: Cycler by Lauren McLaughlin
Tween: My So-Called Family by Courtney Sheinmel
Children: Jack Plank Tells Tales by Natalie Babbitt

Because I Want To Awards
Most Unexpectedly Hilarious: Hitler's Canary by Sandi Toksvig
Most Difficult to Process: Tender Morselsby Margo Lanagan
Bought It Full Price and It Was So Worth It: Nation by Terry Pratchett
Gave Me the Willies: The Minister's Daughter by Julie Hearn