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beckybooks July 13 2014, 00:16

Week in Review: July 6-12

http://blbooks.blogspot.com/2014/07/week-in-review-july-6-12.html

50 Children: One Ordinary American Couple's Extraordinary Rescue Mission Into the Heart of Nazi Germany. Steven Pressman. 2014. HarperCollins. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
To Say Nothing of the Dog. Connie Willis. 1998. Bantam. 493 pages. [Source: Bought]
What the Moon Said. Gayle Rosengren. 2014. Penguin. 224 pages. [Source: Library]
Alice-Miranda At School. Jacqueline Harvey. 2010/2011. Random House. 257 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Enders. Lissa Price. 2014. Random House. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Very Little Red Riding Hood. Teresa Heapy. Illustrated by Sue Heap. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Peppa Pig and the Vegetable Garden. 2014. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Peppa Pig and the Great Vacation. Candlewick Press. 2014. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Help! We Need A Title! Herve Tullet. 2014. Candlewick Press. 64 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
I Pledge Allegiance. Pat Mora and Libby Martinez. Illustrated by Patrice Barton. 2014. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Duck & Goose: Go To The Beach. Tad Hills. 2014. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
The School for Cats. Esther Averill. 1947/2005. New York Review Children's Collection. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Jenny's Moonlight Adventure. Esther Averill. 1949/2005. New York Review Children's Collection. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Jenny's Birthday Book. Esther Averill. 1954/2005. New York Review Children's Collection. 44 pages. [Source: Library]
Jenny Goes to Sea. Esther Averill. 1957/2005. New York Review Children's Collection. 140 pages. [Source: Library]
The Fire Cat. Esther Averill. 1960/1983. HarperCollins. 64 pages. [Source: Own]
The Hotel Cat. Esther Averill. 1969/2005. New York Review Children's Collection. 180 pages. [Source: Library]
Captains of the City Streets. Esther Averill. 1972/2005. New York Review Children's Collection. 164 pages. [Source: Library] 
Jenny and the Cat Club: A Collection of Favorite Stories About Jenny Linsky. Esther Averill. 1973/2003. New York Review Children's Collection. 176 pages. [Source: Library]
A Match Made in Texas: A Novella Collection. Karen Witemeyer, Regina Jennings, Carol Cox, and Mary Connealy. 2014. Bethany House. 384 pages. [Source: Library]
A Sensible Arrangement. Tracie Peterson. 2014. Bethany House. 336 pages. [Source: Library]
A Captain for Laura Rose. Stephanie Grace Whitson. 2014. FaithWords. 336 pages. [Source: Library]

This week's favorite:

It will be a hard decision to make this week. If I'm choosing based on Serious and Significant, then, 50 children definitely tops the list. How could it not? It was informative enough, and compelling too. But am I choosing based on Serious and Significant? Just because I read serious books sometimes, does that mean they always have to take preference over everything else? Who says?

Two other books stand out this week. To Say Nothing of the Dog is a time-traveling romantic comedy. It is just a delight to read and reread. A Match Made in Texas is a historical romance novella collection. I really, really, really loved it. All of the novellas were great. A few were giddy-making even. I expected to like the book, I didn't expect to LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
If you're reading this on a site (other than Becky's Book Reviews or Becky's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.
beckybooks July 12 2014, 15:45

Library Loot: Second Trip in July

http://blbooks.blogspot.com/2014/07/library-loot-second-trip-in-july.html

New Loot:
  • Bridge to Haven by Francine Rivers
  • Simple Faith by Anna Schmidt
  • The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic by Professor Barnabas Quill, Historian of the Island at the Center of Everything, Washed, Dusted, Translated, Edited, and Greatly Shortened for the Rest of the World by Jennifer Trafton
  • Lady of Passion by Freda Lightfoot
  • Four: A Divergent Collection by Veronica Roth
  • Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
  • The Microbiome Diet by Raphael Kellman, MD
  • Out of the Depths by Edgar Harrell, USMC with David Harrell
  • The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming
  • A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen
  • Tudors versus Stewarts the Fatal Inheritance of Mary, Queen of Scots by Linda Porter
  • Love in the Balance by Regina Jennings
  • Burning Sky by Lori Benton
  • The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith
  • The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler by James Cross Giblin
  • Luminary by Krista McGee
Leftover Loot:
  • A Captain for Laura Rose by Stephanie Grace Whitson
  • The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  • The Little Girl Who Fought the Great Depression: Shirley Temple and 1930s America by John F. Kasson
  • A Sorcerer's Treason by Sarah Zettel
  • Palace of Spies by Sarah Zettel
  • Sidney Chambers and the Perils of The Night by James Runcie
  • Sidney Chambers and the Problem of Evil by James Runcie
  • A King's Ransom by Sharon Kay Penman
Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.  

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
If you're reading this on a site (other than Becky's Book Reviews or Becky's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.
jjk_synd July 12 2014, 14:20

TED@NYC recap

http://thejjkblog.blogspot.com/2014/07/tednyc-recap.html

Earlier this week I had the great privilege of speaking at TED@NYC. (More than a thousand people applied, but only a little over twenty people were invited to speak.) All of the speakers were so incredibly inspiring, and I feel so fortunate to have met them. Some of the talks may go on to TED.com, other talks will land the speakers an invite to the big TED conference. It would be amazing if my talk on School Lunch Hero Day made it to TED.com so more people could hear my talk on gratitude. For the time being, I have no idea what the future will hold! But for now, you can read a recap of the evening on the TED blog here: http://blog.ted.com/2014/07/09/ted_at_nyc_2014/ 

Interesting fact: at TED@NYC each speaker was given a time cap for their talk that was, on average, five minutes. If you're wondering if that was a challenge, the answer would be yes. But it really helped me focus my message! 

You can find some great photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tedconference/sets/72157645630440234/!


Photo from TED@NYC Talent Search, July 8, 2014, Joe's Pub, New York, NY. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED https://www.flickr.com/photos/tedconference/14649792763/in/set-72157645630440234/
Photo from TED@NYC Talent Search, July 8, 2014, Joe's Pub, New York, NY. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED https://www.flickr.com/photos/tedconference/14443260818/in/set-72157645630440234/

wendieold_feed July 12 2014, 12:56

Walter Dean Myers

http://blog.wendieold.com/2014/07/walter-dean-myers.html

Those of us who attended the Corretta Scott King breakfast at ALA in June wondered why Walter Dean Myers was not there to accept his award.  His editor accepted it in his name.  Early in July we discovered why. The Children's Book World was shocked by the information that one of our giants had died.

There have been many tributes to him. Here are links to a few:

Lyn Miller-Lachmann -- We've Lost a Library
Fuse #8 Production blog on the School Library Journal Website
And here's his biography on the Walter Dean Myers' website



fuseno8 July 12 2014, 08:31

Book Trailer Premiere – Muddy Max: The Mystery of Marsh Creek by Elizabeth Rusch

http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/2014/07/12/book-trailer-premiere-muddy-max-the-mystery-of-marsh-creek-by-elizabeth-rusch/

http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/?p=20267

Occasionally I’ll premiere a book trailer here or there.  Particularly when it’s from a children’s author whose work I admire.  If the name “Elizabeth Rusch” is ringing some bells, there may be a reason for that.  Back in the day I was a huge fan of her The Mighty Mars Rovers as well as that gorgeous Volcano Rising and For the Love of Music : the remarkable story of Maria Anna Mozart.  Now she’s debuting her middle-grade graphic novel Muddy Max: The Mystery of Marsh Creek August 5 with Andrews McMeel/AMP for Kids. Her tech savvy 13-year-old son made her book trailer, which is sweet.

Enjoy!

share save 171 16 Book Trailer Premiere   Muddy Max: The Mystery of Marsh Creek by Elizabeth Rusch

beckybooks July 11 2014, 13:14

Reread #28 To Say Nothing of the Dog

http://blbooks.blogspot.com/2014/07/reread-28-to-say-nothing-of-dog.html

To Say Nothing of the Dog. Connie Willis. 1998. Bantam. 493 pages. [Source: Bought]

I have every intention of rereading all four Oxford time travel books by Connie Willis this year. Earlier in the year, I reread the first book, Doomsday Book. To Say Nothing of the Dog, the second book, is a book I originally read and reviewed in July 2009. While the first book offers drama, drama, more drama, with just a touch of humor now and then, the second book is a romantic comedy. I happen to love both books though they are very different from one another.

Ned Henry is the hero of To Say Nothing of the Dog. He is on a mission, not a mission of his own choosing perhaps, but a big mission all the same. He is one of many time travelers working for Lady Schrapnell on her latest project: restoring Coventry Cathedral. The novel opens with a very overworked Ned Henry beginning to show severe signs of time-lag. What he needs is rest, permission to rest. That isn't likely to happen if Lady Schrapnell learns his whereabouts. For better or worse, Ned Henry is sent to the past--to Victorian times--to recuperate. He's been given another mission too. This time by someone much nicer and calmer than Lady Schrapnell. The problem? Ned Henry wasn't capable of listening and understanding. Now he's in the past without a real clue of WHY he's there and what he's supposed to accomplish.

Verity Kindle is the heroine of To Say Nothing of the Dog. She is on a mission of her own. While Ned Henry was given the assignment of finding out the whereabouts of the bishop's bird stump, Verity's assignment is to read Tocelyn's diary. The diary is available to read in the future. But the most relevant pages to the Coventry Cathedral project were damaged. So she's been sent to the oh-so-important summer of 1888 to read the newly written diary entries. She's having about as much success as Ned Henry. In other words, not much luck at all! These two work together as best they can. Verity manages to travel back and forth a few times to the future. Their mission--as they see it has changed a bit. They worry that they've damaged the future and that something horrible may happen as a result. Like Tocelyn, they know, was supposed to marry a "Mr. C". They know this for a fact from future diary entries. Yet here they are and she's engaged to someone else! Their "new mission" is to find the identity of "Mr. C." and make sure they meet when they're supposed to meet....

I loved this one. I have always loved this one. It is a delightful time travel novel. I love the humor! I do! It's so very, very funny! And I love the details and the dialogue. This one is just a joy cover to cover!

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
If you're reading this on a site (other than Becky's Book Reviews or Becky's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.
revisionnotes July 11 2014, 11:20

39 Villain Motivations

http://www.darcypattison.com/revision/villain-motivations/

http://www.darcypattison.com/?p=4979


Free Ebook

"amusing. . .engaging, accessible," says Publisher's Weekly


I’m working on motivating my villain and have found 39 possible motivations. I’m sure there are more, but these should jump start your imagination. They are presented here with a statement from the villain’s point of view.
villainMotivations

  1. Romance: I want to marry the princess.
  2. Revenge – ruin a hero: I want to ruin the King.
  3. To distinguish oneself: I want the princess to respect me.
  4. To fit in/gain acceptance: I want to attend the princess’ coronation and eat at her table.
  5. Justice: The king killed my mother, so the king must die.
  6. Greed – get rich: I want to steal everything from the King’s treasury.
  7. Fear: I am afraid that our lands will be stripped bare by this evil king.
  8. Desperation: If something doesn’t change in the next week, I will be executed.
  9. Social cohesion: Us zombies need to stick together.
  10. Desire to better oneself: I was born a peasant, but I will die a king.
  11. Power to achieve a goal: I must be king, so I can change the laws about owning property.
  12. Escape destiny: At birth, a prophet said I would kill the king; however, I am stealing enough money to escape to another country and avoid that destiny.
  13. Achieve destiny: At birth, a prophet said I would kill the king; and that’s my plan.
  14. Persecution: Growing up in a wheelchair has been hell.
  15. Rivalry: Prince John wants to marry the Princess, but she’s mine.
  16. Discovery: I will find out the king’s darkest secret and use it against him.
  17. Ambition: I want. . . everything!
  18. Survival (deliverance): In the midst of this civil war, I will survive.
  19. Self-sacrifice: Someone must stop this evil king and I’ve decided to step up and do it.
  20. Love: The princess has stolen my heart; so, I’ll steal her.
  21. Hate: The princess is an evil woman; when she becomes my wife, I’ll make her suffer.
  22. Conspiracy: I’ve gathered twelve good men to help me overthrow this king.
  23. Honor: Men from my city never back down, even if it costs me everything.
  24. Dishonor: Men from my city are idiots; I’ll never do things the “right” way.
  25. Unnatural affection: I want to marry the princess and take the queen as a lover.
  26. Catastrophe: A volcano is going to erupt and when it does, I’ll plunder the city.
  27. Grief and loss: When my mother died, I lost all interest in doing good.
  28. Rebellion: I’m the leader of the guerrilla forces.
  29. Betrayal: I was engaged to the princess, and then she married Prince John.
  30. Spread hate and fear: I love hate. Hate, hate, hate.
  31. Corrupt everyone: Come join me as I rob the king.
  32. Control the kids: If those kids make noise one more time at midnight, I’ll get ‘em.
  33. Leave me in peace: I never wanted to leave my home town, but since you’ve made me, I’ll show you what’s what.
  34. Recover what is lost: The king took my mother’s locket as tribute, and if it’s the last thing I ever do, I’ll get it back.
  35. Save humanity: To save humanity, I’ll have to kill the whole army.
  36. serve a master (ex. The Fuhrer): I’ll follow King George anywhere, even if it means killing King Phillip.
  37. Destroy: Ha! Ha! Ha! I love to burn down houses.
  38. Rule part of the world: I want to be King of the Mermaids.
  39. Rule all of the world: I will rule the Earth.
alphasoup2 July 11 2014, 10:21

three books, a winner and a blog break

http://jamarattigan.com/2014/07/11/three-books-a-winner-and-a-blog-break/

http://jamarattigan.com/?p=13233

“Black Bear-y Pie” by Shawn Braley (available as a print or greeting card)

Ah yes. The time has come once again to sniff out a few more pies take a little summer blog break.

I’m looking forward to relaxing, tackling my TBR pile, and inviting Mr. Firth over for some intellectual conversation. :)

But before I sign off, wanted to mention three upcoming titles I’m especially excited about. They all hit shelves on that magical day, August 5, 2014:

 

1. Wild Things!: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature by Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson and Peter Sieruta (Candlewick, 2014).

Secret lives, scandalous turns, and some very funny surprises — these essays by leading kids’ lit bloggers take us behind the scenes of many much-loved children’s books.

Told in lively and affectionate prose, this treasure trove of information for a student, librarian, parent, or anyone wondering about the post–Harry Potter children’s book biz brings contemporary illumination to the warm-and-fuzzy bunny world we think we know.

I’ve been anxiously waiting for this one for at least five years, since I’m a big fan of all three authors’ blogs. It will be somewhat bittersweet since Peter is no longer with us, but it will be good to read his words again and remember how much we all admired his rapier wit and finely honed children’s literature chops.

Do check out the cool new Wild Things! website, where Julie and Betsy will be posting “cutting room floor” stories daily up until release date, and where you’ll find their blog tour and personal appearances schedule.

 

2. Eat Your Science Homework: Recipes for Inquiring Minds by Ann McCallum and Leeza Hernandez (Charlesbridge 2014). 

Hungry readers discover delicious and distinct recipes in this witty companion to Eat Your Math Homework. A main text explains upper-elementary science concepts, including subatomic particles, acids and bases, black holes, and more. Alongside simple recipes, side-bars encourage readers to also experiment and explore outside of the kitchen. A review, glossary, and index make the entire book easy to digest.

Remember when Ann and Leeza dropped by to tell us all about Eat Your Math Homework? Happy to see they’ve created another cookbook with a science theme. I hope to try one of the recipes and report back next month. :)

 

3. Spic and Span!: Lillian Gilbreth’s Wonder Kitchen by Monica Kulling and David Parkins (Tundra Books, 2014). 

Born into a life of privilege in 1878, Lillian Moller Gilbreth put her pampered life aside for one of adventure and challenge. She and her husband, Frank, became efficiency experts by studying the actions of factory workers. They ran their home efficiently, too. When Frank suddenly died, Lillian was left to her own devices to raise their eleven children. Eventually, she was hired by the Brooklyn Borough Gas Company to improve kitchen design, which was only the beginning.

Lillian Gilbreth was the subject of two movies (Cheaper by the Dozen and Belles on Their Toes), the first woman elected to the National Academy of Engineering, and the first female psychologist to have a U.S. postage stamp issued in her honor. A leading efficiency expert, she was also an industrial engineer, a psycologist, an author, a professor, and an inventor.

Sounds good, no? Will be featuring this one next month, too!

Happy Early Book Birthday, Betsy, Julie, Peter, Ann, Leeza, Monica and David!!

*   *   *

GIVEAWAY WINNER!

Yes, yes, I know you’re anxious to hear who will be receiving a brand new copy of Julia, Child by Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad.

We bribed Scotland Yard with 1,283 Chocolate Almond Cupcakes to help us locate the erudite, ever reliable M. Random Integer Generator. From past giveaways you probably know he is in such high demand that he’s taken to fleeing at a moment’s notice, globe-trotting with famous chefs and Italian clothiers, and geocaching himself just for fun.

All in the name of suspense (it beats a simple drum roll any day).

This time he remarked on the poetic beauty of the entrants’ given names, particularly swooning over favorites “Emmeline,” “Tanita,” and “Michelle.”

Mon Dieu! He actually fell in love with them all, and was indeed at sixes and sevens over having to pick just one winner.

And it is: KIRSTEN LOPRESTI!!

CONGRATULATIONS, KIRSTEN!!! Please send your snail mail address to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com, so we can send your book out to you pronto!

Thanks one and all for entering the giveaway. Anyone wishing to rendezvous with M. Generator, please send a telegram to: 81 rue de l’Université, Paris. Ooh-la-la!

*   *   *

“Vacation” by Toby Fonseca (available as a print, notecard, mug, phone case and rug)

Okay, I’ll see you around mid-August or so. Enjoy the rest of your summer — have fun and eat a lot of treats!

————————————————

Copyright © 2014 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.


fuseno8 July 11 2014, 08:16

Fusenews: Because nothing says “birthday” like Barbarsol

http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/2014/07/11/fusenews-because-nothing-says-birthday-like-barbarsol/

http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/?p=20103

First and foremost, hello.  How are you?  Are you having a nice day?  So nice to see you here, but before we go any further I must tell you that you very much need to leave me.  Just for a little while.  As you may have heard, my book with Jules Danielson and Peter Sieruta, Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature, is coming out August 5th.  To prepare, Jules and I have created a blog that posts a story a day that got cut from our final book.  Here’s what you may have missed so far:

Bunny 300x191 Fusenews: Because nothing says “birthday” like Barbarsol- A story about the greatest ALA Conference photo of all time.
- A tale of all the various authors and illustrators who have gotten advice from Maurice Sendak over the years.
- Advice on why you should never invite Hans Christian Andersen to stay the night.
- A tribute to everybody’s favorite Wicked Angel.
- Two rough broads / Newbery and Caldecott winners.
- A tribute to the fantastic Nancy Garden.

That said, here’s all the other news what wuz.

  • All the world is ah-buzz with the information that J.K. Rowling just released on Pottermore.  Rita Skeeter is still reporting (so no, there is no justice in the universe) and she has the scoop on 34-year-old Harry today, as well as his buddies.  For my part, I’m just socked that I’m only two years older than Harry.  Makes my crush on Snape that much more creepy, I guess.
  • One of my favorite blogs, Pop Goes the Page by the Cotsen Children’s Library, is turning one!  Best of all, if you send them your artistic birthday well-wishes, the selected winner will receive a $150 online shopping spree at Discount School Supply.  Not half bad!  Go do that thing.
  • Credit Martha Parravano for creating a quite incisive interpretation of the Caldecott winners and near misses of 2013.  Lots to chew on, even if you don’t always agree.
  • There were many reasons to attend this last ALA Conference in Vegas.  But three in particular are standing out for me today.  Reason #1: I could have seen Mo Willems and Daniel Handler sharing a stage at the same time.  THAT would be an event well worth witnessing.  Can I get a witness who was there?.  Reason #2: Starr LaTronica’s Shoes.
StarrShoes Fusenews: Because nothing says “birthday” like Barbarsol

Need I say more?

Reason #3: This blog got a little shout out in Brian Floca’s Caldecott speech.  See if you can spot where it is (hint: it’s not by name).

  • Anywho, I wasn’t able to attend that conference because of my pregnancy.  I also wasn’t able to attend this conference: The Second Annual 21st Century Nonfiction Conference.  Doggone it.  Held in lovely New Paltz, NY, I was pleased at least to see that my co-worker Amie Wright kicked butt and took names.  You can read a great write-up of the event here.
  • I know you have a lot going on today, but if you enjoyed watching Faerie Tale Theater with Shelley Duvall back in the day then maybe you’ll appreciate this catchy little ditty made out of all the times the charming host said, “Hello, I’m Shelley Duvall.”  I don’t do ringtones but if I had to choose one . . .
  • I can still remember it like it was yesterday.  Way back in 1992 I listened to a librarian read Sukey and the Mermaid by Robert D. San Souci (illustrated by Brian Pinkney) to a group of kids.  It was remarkable at the time, not just because it featured a black mermaid, but because it featured a mermaid at all.  I don’t know if you read my recent review of The Mermaid and the Shoe, but mermaid picture books aren’t exactly prevalent.  Well over at Latin@s in Kid Lit, Cindy L. Rodriguez has written the post Diversity Needed Under the Sea: Not All Mermaids Have Blond Hair and Blue Eyes.  Their focus is mostly YA, but it’s interesting to note that aside from Sukey, picture book mermaids of color are few and far between.  Fairies of color have it even worse.
  • Get out your fightin’ gloves.  SLJ has just launched the Up for Debate series.  Them’s fighting words (literally).
  • Daily Image:

Trying to figure out how we could pull this off in the States.  Over in Britain the Story Museum hired a photographer for its 26 Characters exhibition.  His mission?  To photograph famous authors as their favorite literary characters.  The image of Neil Gaiman as Badger from Wind in the Willows circulated a couple months ago.  Now more pics have been revealed and they are lovely.  Here are two . .

Philip Pullman as Long John Silver

PullmanSilver Fusenews: Because nothing says “birthday” like Barbarsol

Michael Morpurgo as Magwitch from Great Expectations

MorpurgoMagwitch 500x394 Fusenews: Because nothing says “birthday” like Barbarsol

Naturally I’m trying to figure out how we could do this here.  The Eric Carle Museum could host the images (we’d have a brief debate over whether or not photography is technically “illustration” and then decide ultimately that it was).  Or maybe the Rich Michelson Gallery could do it.  Then it’s a question of finding a photographer and picking the authors.  As for the costumes and make-up, Britain utilized The Royal Shakespeare Company.  Can’t really top that but it would be nice to get professionals involved. Pondering, pondering, pondering . . .

share save 171 16 Fusenews: Because nothing says “birthday” like Barbarsol

author2author July 10 2014, 16:43

BLACKOUT is ON SALE! (or 66% Off Now!)

http://author2author.blogspot.com/2014/07/blackout-is-on-sale-or-66-off-now.html

Tip of the Day: Join BookBub for daily ebook deals emailed directly to you!

In anticipation of the upcoming official release of DESERTED, BLACKOUT is on sale for just $.99 for a limited time on Amazon and B&N!

Read about bro and sis Leo and Jenny's NY and PA adventures in book #1 before being whisked off to Las Vegas in book #2....



Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

beckybooks July 10 2014, 14:43

Enders (2014)

http://blbooks.blogspot.com/2014/07/enders-2014.html

Enders. Lissa Price. 2014. Random House. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Enders is the sequel to Lissa Price's Starters. I enjoy reading dystopia, and I like that Starters and Enders offers a unique story to readers. I also appreciate that there isn't a love triangle. Callie, our heroine, and her brother, Tyler, have been "saved." They now have a home. They now have a legal guardian. But life isn't really much easier for Callie because she is still hearing voices in her head. She is still hearing via the neurochip from THE OLD MAN. He is still a threat to be reckoned with, and Callie, while not helpless, doesn't know how to take him down for once and for all.

I felt there was a LOT of action in Enders. The battle, if battle is the right word, has begun. Callie is not alone in facing The Old Man. She is not alone in her battle for justice for starters, for young people. New characters are introduced in Enders. Callie teams up with the good guys, and she places her trust in her new friends. And a BIG SHOWDOWN does happen in a way. But the twists and turns in this one reveal just how strange this war may prove to be.

I liked this one fine. But I didn't LOVE it.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
If you're reading this on a site (other than Becky's Book Reviews or Becky's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.
fuseno8 July 10 2014, 08:57

Born Reading: An Interview with Jason Boog

http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/2014/07/10/born-reading-an-interview-with-jason-boog/

http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/?p=20161

Folks, I talk a fair amount about my upcoming book with Candlewick but I’d be lying to you if I said it was the only book I worked on that’s out this year.  For lo, I helped write the introduction for another book that will be coming out this month on the 15th and it is awesome.  Behold:

bornreading23 Born Reading: An Interview with Jason Boog

Cute, right?

At the end of June The New York Times released the following story: Pediatrics Group to Recommend Reading Aloud to Children From Birth.  For those of us in the literacy-minded community, this comes as no surprise.  But what about those parents for whom reading aloud poses a challenge?  Born Reading: Bringing Up Bookworms in a Digital Age is a delightful aid to any new parent, with (as the official description says) “step-by-step instructions on interactive reading and advice for developing your child’s interest in books from the time they are born.”

So I figured, why not interview the author himself?  If only to give you just a taste of what the book has in store.  Because you know me.  I don’t write introductions for no junk.  Jason kind submitting to my grilling.

Howdy, Jason. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

When I was a toddler, my mom took me to the Lyons Township District Library in the village of Lyons, Michigan (population 789). I kept reading and writing for the rest of my childhood, and I ended up studying English at the University of Michigan. After college, I spent two years working with youth groups in Peace Corps Guatemala.

In 2003, I studied journalism at New York University and I have worked as a writer ever since. Most recently, I spent five years as the publishing editor at Mediabistro, where I led the GalleyCat and AppNewser blogs.

There’s no lack of parenting books on the market these days, but your book appears to be doing something we don’t see that often. Can you give me the gist of the project and where it came from?

When my daughter Olive was born in 2010, I wanted her to love books as much as I do.

But it had been more than 25 years since I had read a kid’s book—so I needed some help. I consulted with child development experts to find out the best way to read to my daughter. Then I interviewed librarians, teachers and app creators to find the books, eBooks and apps to share with my child.

Through this research, I discovered the art of “interactive reading” or “dialogic reading.” Child development experts crafted these reading techniques 25 years ago. These simple and easy reading tricks will literally make your child smarter.

I tried to show parents how they can use interactive reading techniques to enrich books, eBooks, apps and any kind of 21st Century media experience. More about the art of interactive reading: http://www.born-reading.com/the-art-of-interactive-reading/

And had you written a book before?  How did you hit on the best outline and format for the content?

I had written a book before, but this experience was unique. I was literally living the book with my daughter and my wife.

Over the course of writing Born Reading: Bringing Up Bookworms in a Digital Age, I watched Olive change from a mute newborn into a voracious and opinionated young reader.  The form flowed naturally from that growing experience. I dedicated a chapter to each year of a young reader’s life, incorporating all the books, eBooks and apps we read together during the writing process.

Whenever I learned something new from my team of amazing experts, I would immediately share it with Olive and my wife. We all grew up as the book evolved.

I could not help but notice that in the book you don’t just talk to reading specialists and educators but also teachers, librarians, and children’s authors themselves.  All told, do you have a rough number of who you spoke to?  How did you decide whom to speak to in the end?

I spoke with more than 50 different experts during my writing process. I asked all the questions that I had as a parent or that I had heard from other parents.

For instance, when local parents debated how much screen-time was appropriate for toddlers, I contacted child development experts and neuroscientists to get an expert opinion. It was so amazing to have these experts to guide me every step of the way.

Once Olive could voice her own opinions, I let her interests shape the book as well. When she developed a love of comic books, I reached out to the wonderful folks at TOON Books to find out how to nurture that interest. When Olive got into cooking, we shared the Julia Child cooking app with her. When she obsessed over Disney’s Frozen, I created a whole bundle of new stories to share with her: http://www.born-reading.com/born-reading-bundle-for-disneys-frozen/

One of the things I really liked about the book was the amount of attention given to screen time, particularly when it comes to the youngest children.  In our day and age it seems like the wild west in terms of shiny rectangles (as my brother-in-law calls them).  Did you initially expect this to take up as much time in your book as it did?

Oddly enough, I first envisioned my book as focused entirely on digital reading and the shift to a new kind of reading. My own reading and writing is mostly digital now, and I imagined my daughter would spend lots of time with these new devices. My wife totally disagreed and wanted to be more cautious.

Once I started exploring the research (and lack of research) into the benefits of digital materials for kids, I realized that I had to caution parents as well as share new kinds of reading. Thanks to the experts I interviewed, I learned how to moderate my daughter’s time on devices and how to make sure she has the best experience with the tablets and smartphones in our house.

These devices can be very seductive, but my wife and I worked together to create a more healthy relationship with technology.

In the course of your research, did you hit on anything that surprised you?

The art of interactive reading was by far my best “discovery.” Many librarians and teachers are trained in these awesome interactive techniques, and they are more than willing to share them with parents.

I was shocked that nobody ever told me about these techniques as we prepared for Olive’s birth. These interactive reading techniques should be taught to parents as they leave the hospital with a newborn.  Reading can truly change a child’s life.

At the American Library Association conference this year, a roomful of inspiring librarians shared a list of interactive picture books. Even if you are a shy reader, these books will help make any reading experience more interactive: http://www.born-reading.com/best-interactive-print-books-for-kids/

Any plans for a follow-up?  

I really hope my daughter spends the rest of her life as a reader. If I can take the journey with her into middle grade or YA books, I might have to write about that experience as well…

Thanks, Jason!  We’ll all look for your book next week!

 

share save 171 16 Born Reading: An Interview with Jason Boog

beckybooks July 9 2014, 14:10

Alice-Miranda At School (2011)

http://blbooks.blogspot.com/2014/07/alice-miranda-at-school-2011.html

Alice-Miranda At School. Jacqueline Harvey. 2010/2011. Random House. 257 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Alice Miranda at School is a manipulatively cute book. It tries to be "cute" and "charming" and "delightful" and "amusing" and "endearing" on almost every single page. It tries to fit a certain mold in its storytelling.

Alice Miranda, our heroine, is seven. She wants to attend a certain boarding school. Even though she's a good six months younger than most of the other beginning students. Eight is usual age, after all. Alice Miranda has to be the most intuitive child on the planet. She can "read" people of all ages extremely well. On her first day at the school, she finds three adults who need her help. The cook needs a vacation so she can go visit her grandchildren for the first time. The gardener is depressed because he can't have flowers on the school grounds anymore. The assistant or secretary (the second in command) is sad because she can't marry her true love because she'd be fired if she marries. Alice Miranda also finds some students nearer her own age who need fixing.

Alice Miranda would definitely be "Emma Approved." (I am currently watching "Emma Approved" which is an adaptation of Emma by Jane Austen.) Alice Miranda almost demands a reaction from everyone she meets: instant love or instant hate.

If this book actually has a real plot, it is the "three tests" that Alice-Miranda must take in order to stay at the school.

I liked this one. I didn't dislike it. I found Alice Miranda's character to be unbelievable and silly. But since I felt it was completely intentional for her to be so over-the-top and unnatural, I didn't mind it so much.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
If you're reading this on a site (other than Becky's Book Reviews or Becky's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.
revisionnotes July 9 2014, 10:06

Synopsis: A Google Example

http://www.darcypattison.com/marketing/synopsis-a-google-example/

http://www.darcypattison.com/?p=4977


Free Ebook

"amusing. . .engaging, accessible," says Publisher's Weekly


A couple years ago, Google produced a promotional video, Parisian Love, which advertised its search capabilities in a very simple way. There are merely twelve phrases entered into a Google Search box. And yet–it tells a story and tugs at the heart strings. It evokes emotion. How good is this copy? The video has received over 7 million views!

The sound here is minimal, but effective. But it’s really the words that shine.

When I think about blurbs for books, this stands as a stellar example of what you can do with very tight text. If you could craft your synopsis–or blurb, flap copy, elevator pitch, tweet, or whatever promotional copy you’re working on–to get this strong an emotional tug, you’ll have a winner.

Here’s the Copy

Parisian Love

Study abroad Paris France
Cafes near the louve
Translate tu es tres mignon (You’re very cute)
Impress a French girl
Chocolate shops paris france
What are truffles
Who is truffaut
Long distance relationship advice
Jobs in paris
AA120
Churches in Paris
How to assemble a crib
Search on.

Watch the Video


If you can’t see this video, click here.

Try writing up some promotional copy for your story in just twelve phrases.
Does it evoke emotion?
Does it show a narrative arc?
Can you use this to craft a better marketing message?

beckybooks July 8 2014, 13:39

What the Moon Said (2014)

http://blbooks.blogspot.com/2014/07/what-moon-said-2014.html

What the Moon Said. Gayle Rosengren. 2014. Penguin. 224 pages. [Source: Library]

I definitely enjoyed spending time with Esther in What the Moon Said. This book is oh-so-easy to recommend for young readers who enjoy historical fiction.

What the Moon Said is set in Chicago and Wisconsin in the early days (1930) of the Depression. When Esther's father loses his job, the family decides to move to Wisconsin and start a farm. They know that farming isn't necessarily an "easy" or "sure" way to make a living. But they are used to hard work, and her dad has previous farming experience. They'll be able to raise their own food, and, of course, to sell what they need. Esther makes friends in this small rural community; she even makes a BEST friend, a girl named Bethany.

Esther's biggest problem, and it's a problem no matter where they live, is her mother. Esther cannot figure out why her mother does not show any sign at all of loving her or appreciating her. Esther sees her mother acting affectionately and kindly to her siblings, but, when it comes to Esther, well, it's scold, scold, scold, ignore. The few times when Esther reaches out to her mom, to hug her, to kiss her, to touch her hand, etc. It does not go as she hopes. She wants so much for her mother to love her.

Her mother does seem to have some issues. For example, she's extremely superstitious. She lets signs, her reading of the signs, determine every thing no matter how big or small in the family's life, whether it effects just herself or her whole family. Poor Esther! At one point, she dictates to her daughter that she can no longer be friends with Bethany because she has a mole and is marked.

I may not have loved, loved, loved this one, but, I did enjoy it very much!

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
If you're reading this on a site (other than Becky's Book Reviews or Becky's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.
debtastic_reads July 8 2014, 11:36

Welcome To The Spotlight Justina Ireland and Promise of Shadows!

http://debtasticreads.wordpress.com/2014/07/08/welcome-to-the-spotlight-justina-ireland-and-promise-of-shadows/

http://debtasticreads.wordpress.com/?p=1938

I’m super thrilled to shine the spotlight on YA author Justina Ireland and her fabulous novel Promise of Shadows! I met Justina at the Vermont College Novel Writing Retreat earlier this year and found her to be hilarious and talented. I could not put this book down! Stay tuned below to enter for a chance to win a copy of this suspenseful, action-filled, thrilling book.

9781442444645_p0_v3_s260x420

Promise of Shadows by Justina Ireland (Simon & Schuster/2014)

The story opens on Zephyr who is stuck in Tartarus’ worst section – the Pits – as punishment for killing one of Hera’s guards. Zeph is a Harpy but a failed one, and is scared when she shouldn’t be. Fortunately, she has found a protector in Cass. When her childhood friend (and crush) Tallon comes to the rescue to release her from the Underworld, she and Cass join Tallon, his dragon brother Blue and Zeph’s childhood nemesis Alora in a quest to keep Hera from taking over the mortal world. Zeph, a very reluctant heroine with a dark power, has growing feelings for Tallon which complicates matters. Exciting and original and full of adventure and tension!

Spotlight on Justina Ireland:

Please share with us how you came up with this amazing story. What was the writing process like for you?

Zephyr had actually been kicking around in my mind for a little while.  I’d tried her in a couple of different stories, but things never really clicked.  Mostly that’s because I don’t outline.  I’m a pretty disorganized writer.  I start with the opening and the ending, but all that story in the middle I have to discover during the writing process.  So that was a lot of different things throughout the drafts, but it eventually clicked.  And then when my editor came back with notes it clicked even more.

Zephyr is a “failed” Harpy who is afraid of things any proper Harpy should not be. She struggles with this as she mourns the loss of her family. When she learns she is they prophesied Nyx and is destined to battle Hera, she is not quite thrilled. Zeph is a layered character who felt very real to me. How do you get to know and develop your characters, in particular, Zeph?

Zeph was hard for me, because I desperately wanted her to be a badass.  And she isn’t.  At heart, she’s a coward and lazy, and I like to think that if I were the Nyx I’d embrace it wholeheartedly and start kicking ass on day one.

But that isn’t Zephyr, so I really had to put aside my personal feelings and think what would someone who has zero self-confidence do.  I ended up rewriting most of the book because each revision I’d think “No way would she do that, she’s not there yet.”  It was a definite process.

I’ve long been fascinated by Greek mythology. What brought about your interest in using Greek mythology and these characters? Did you have to do a lot of research?

I’ve loved Greek mythology since I was a kid.  I’m actually a big fan of all kinds of mythology, and I use several mythologies in Promise of Shadows (Greek just tends to be the most prevalent).

I do a ton of research before writing anything.  For my Greek mythology my go to resource is the Rutledge Greek mythology book, which is about a thousand pages long.  But I usually take whatever the established story is and change it to suit my whims.  Harpies are a great example.  In the established mythology they’re these monstrous birdlike creatures.  In my story, they’re mercenaries.  But I use enough of the established details so the people can feel the details are familiar and fresh at the same time.

Who is your favorite Greek god/goddess and why?

I’m a big fan of Ares, although I also dig Hades.  My favorite Greek gods/goddesses tend to be the ones that don’t have such a great reputation, because I like to imagine that maybe they aren’t really as bad as people say.  I love a tragic backstory.

Justina Ireland lives in a house made of books. At least that’s the excuse she gives when people trip over one. When she isn’t accidentally killing house guests with her TBR pile she writes books. She enjoys eating, sleeping, and watching Judge Judy on her DVR. You can usually find her on Twitter.

For more about Justina and her books, check out her web site, follow her on Tumblr, or follow her on Twitter.

For a chance to win a copy of Promise of Shadows, just follow these instructions:

1.  Comment below and for fun tell me your who your favorite Greek god/goddess is. Mine is Athena, mostly because I just recently visited Athens and learned a ton about her. I also like that she’s the goddess of wisdom and the arts.

2. You must have a US or Canada mailing address to win.

3. Enter by Friday, July 11th midnight EST. Winner will be chosen at random and announced here on Tuesday, July 15th.

Good luck and happy reading!

 


Filed under: Uncategorized

alphasoup2 July 8 2014, 10:03

Author Chat: Kyo Maclear on Julia, Child (+ a giveaway!)

http://jamarattigan.com/2014/07/08/author-chat-kyo-maclear-on-julia-child-a-giveaway/

http://jamarattigan.com/?p=13200

Look what’s officially hitting shelves today!

This charming, whimsical tale very loosely inspired by the real life friendship of Julia Child and Simone Beck is cooked to fingertip-kissing perfection and definitely has my name written all over it.

I literally squealed with delight when I first saw Julie Morstad’s scrumptious, I-could-just-eat-you-all-up ink, gouache and Photoshop illos — so many adorable details and the childlike sophistication is oh-so-français. :)

True, this book had me at the cover, but when I read Kyo Maclear’s spritely celebration of good food, friendship, fearlessly pursuing your passions, growing young, and never forgetting how to have a marvelous time, I could almost hear the real Julia’s rousing cheer, chirrup and hoot of approval. After all, it was she who said, “That’s what human life is all about — enjoying things.”

In Julia, Child (Tundra Books, 2014), we meet cooking buddies Julia and Simca, who firmly believe it’s “best to be a child forever” and are therefore dismayed by all the big, busy, hurried, “wary and worried” grown-ups around them.

Art © 2014 Julie Morstad

What to do? Cook special ‘growing young’ recipes, of course. They whip up a delectable feast complete with “fluffy clouds of cheese soufflé,” “perfect loaves of crusty baguette,” and “a golden compote of fresh peaches, sweet as summer sunlight . . . ” Magnifique!

The big busy people devour every morsel, but something isn’t right. Talk about greedy and grabby! Can the girls come up with another recipe to turn these adults into sensible children once again?

I’m so pleased Toronto-based author Kyo Maclear is here today to talk about this mouthwatering story, her best job ever, and what she’s learned from her children. Put on your best bib, help yourself to some Wonder Seeds, and bask in the joie de vivre. Bon Appétit!

*   *   *

🍴 CHATTING WITH KYO MACLEAR 🍴

Which came first: wanting to write about the importance of never growing up, or wanting to capture Julia Child’s indomitable spirit in a children’s story? What will you remember most about working on this project?

What drew me to Julia Child was her outsized personality and lust for life. When I wrote this story I had been thinking a lot about what it would take to live a life from the point of view of abundance and generosity rather than from a position of scarcity. (Scarcity thinking—whether it be the feeling of not having enough time, or not having enough resources to share—seems to be the default mode for many of us in North America.)

Julia Child’s message—that to be a bountiful and happy eater is to be a bountiful and happy human—seemed both a timely and timeless one to me. We all (big and small) need a little sweetness and slowness, a little less hoarding and a little more giving.

I knew Julie Morstad would be the perfect person to illustrate this book. I am a longtime fan of her work and it was such a highlight when I saw her initial sketches. I wanted the tone to be pitched somewhere between the whimsy of Amelie and the thoughtfulness of Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal and I feel that Julie got it beautifully right.

Another highlight was getting the go-ahead from the Julia Child estate. (Speaking of generosity…) I am so grateful that they saw value in this book, even though it’s only loosely patterned on Julia Child’s actual life. I tried to be true to her spirit, if not the literal facts of her career, and I feel happy that they saw this.

Cutie Pie!

Why was working in a French pâtisserie the most enjoyable job you’ve ever had? In what specific ways did it help inspire this book?

Well, I worked there from ages 15-18, so it was more than a job; it was a kind of tutelage. For three years of adolescence, my entire social life—relationships and friendships—swirled around that pastry shop. My employer, an elderly Parisian woman named Nadine, became my model and mentor. A wearer of silk neck scarves, she did absolutely everything—from slicing a sandwich to peeling a mango—with the utmost flair and finesse. She taught me the difference between a bun and a baguette, a macaron and a Madeleine. She showed me that something austere was best accompanied by something frivolous. She also taught me to keep things simple. Not bad lessons to impart to a future storywriter.

Were you interested in cooking when you were growing up? If so, who taught you how to cook, and what were some of the dishes you especially liked to make or eat?

Cooking wasn’t a major interest though I was lucky to be raised in a food-loving family. When I was eleven a parent of a friend taught me to make lasagna and a cheesecake. These were very exotic foods to someone who grew up on a proverbial diet of sushi and Shepherd’s pie.

Such concentration!

Your story reminds me of two quotes from Picasso: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up,” and, “It takes a long time to become young.” So, via the wisdom of children, what have you learned from your two sons recently, and what do they think of this book?

My youngest son is an indicator species for stress in our family. (He prizes his “relaxation time” so much I sometimes suspect that he was already wearing a lounge coat and communicating with the slow living movement in utero.) If there are too many plans or activities in a given week, he will freak out and stage a wildcat strike.

Both my sons teach me to slow down. When I get really busy and harried they give me this look that makes me feel ridiculous. Sometimes my eldest son will crack me up by saying “Gotta Get These Pineapples to Hawaii”— a catchphrase in our family for rushing for no reason.

It’s not that they are particularly placid children. It’s just that when my sons rush, it’s because they are rushing to do something FUN.

Anyway, I’m happy to say that they approve of this book. It wasn’t a hard sell. They both like cake and stories in which children are shown to be infinitely wiser than the foolish grown-ups raising them.

Kyo with her two sons.

Are you a longtime Julia Child fan? How has she influenced your thinking and cooking today?

To be truthful, I only had a passing knowledge of Julia Child before I wrote this book. I’ve always loved French food, though I rarely cook it at home. It’s fairly demanding (as you probably know) and I usually look for quick and easy rewards when I make a meal (i.e. pretty bowls of pasta)—since, for me, cooking is an antidote to the longer labor of writing.

What do you like best about Julie Morstad’s illustrations? Were you able to offer suggestions about the art?

 I love everything about the illustrations but I especially love the blotted line look. It feels very French. Andy Warhol used a similar style in his commercial work in the 1950s. I also love the little grace and humor notes Julie has sprinkled throughout the book—that wonderful swooshy rainbow (so psychedelic!), the crying lumberjack (hilarious!) As far as suggestions go, I made so few (just some prop ideas, like the roller skates.)

You are hosting a fantasy dinner party for 6 people who have taught you about what is truly important in life. Who are they, what did you learn from them, and what will be on the menu? (Your guests may be from any time or place.)

For sheer party potential:

John Berger—how to have an abundant heart and capacious mind

Maria Callas—how to sing in your own beautiful-ugly voice

Maurice Sendak—how to be an iconoclast

Junot Diaz—how to hold the door open for others

Ryszard Kapuściński—how to travel

Charles Mingus—how to make the complicated simple

Menu:

It would be a music themed dinner. Tapas and strong cocktails.

Click to download a free recipe card!

If you could meet Julia Child today, what would you say to her?

Thank you!

What’s next for you?

 A few picture books, a graphic novel, and a grown-up book about birds.

Please share a favorite recipe, preferably something that will help us grow young.

The “chocolate almond cupcakes” mentioned in my book were inspired by Julia Child’s beloved “Reine de Saba” recipe. I made a version of this recently with my kids. If you’re looking for a moist cake with a rich chocolaty flavor, there’s nothing better. (See: Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume I)

*Jama’s note: Click here for the Reine de Saba recipe, which I made a couple of years ago to celebrate Julia’s 100th birthday.

Today’s Special: Slow Down Soup (generously seasoned with wonder, imagination and sweetness)

*   *   *

♥ SPECIAL GIVEAWAY ♥

JULIA, CHILD
written by Kyo Maclear
illustrated by Julie Morstad
published by Tundra Books, July 8, 2014
Picture Book for all ages, 32 pp.
*Dust jacket folds out to a delectable poster

For a chance to win a brand new copy of Julia, Child, simply leave a comment at this post no later than midnight (EDT) Thursday, July 10, 2014.

You may also enter by sending an email with “Julia” in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan.com.

Extra entries for blogging, tweeting or Facebooking about the giveaway (mention in your comment here). Giveaway open to U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

For more unhurried delights, please visit:

***ETA: If you have a Twitter account, check out the big Tundra Books JULIA, CHILD Sweepstakes!!

——————————

* Interior spreads from Julia, Child posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright © 2014 Kyo Maclear, illustrations © 2014 Julie Morstad, published by Tundra Books. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2014 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.


fuseno8 July 8 2014, 09:00

Review of the Day: Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff

http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/2014/07/08/review-of-the-day-absolutely-almost-by-lisa-graff/

http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/?p=20236

AbsolutelyAlmost Review of the Day: Absolutely Almost by Lisa GraffAbsolutely Almost
By Lisa Graff
Philomel (an imprint of Penguin)
$16.99
ISBN: 978-0-399-16405-7
Ages 9-12
On shelves now.

In the stage musical of Matilda, lyricist Tim Minchin begins the show with the following lines about the state of children today: “Specialness is de rigueur. / Above average is average. Go fig-ueur! / Is it some modern miracle of calculus / That such frequent miracles don’t render each one un-miraculous?” This song ran on a bit of a loop through my cranium as I read Lisa Graff latest middle grade novel Absolutely Almost. For parents, how well your child does reflects right back on you. Your child is a genius? Congratulations! You must be a genius for raising a genius. Your child is above average? Kudos to you. Wait, your child is average? Uh-oh. For some parents nothing in the world could be more embarrassing. We all want our kids to do well in school, but where do you distinguish between their happiness and how hard you’re allowed to push them to do their best? Do you take kindness into account when you’re adding up all their other sterling qualities? Maybe the wonder of Absolutely Almost is that it’s willing to give us an almost unheard of hero. Albie is not extraordinary in any possible way and he would like you to be okay with that. The question then is whether or not child readers will let him.

Things aren’t easy for Albie. He’s not what you’d call much of a natural at anything. Reading and writing is tough. Math’s a headache. He’s not the world’s greatest artist and he’s not going to win any awards for his wit. That said, Albie’s a great kid. If you want someone kind and compassionate, he’s your man. When he finds himself with a new babysitter, a girl named Calista who loves art, he’s initially skeptical. She soon wins him over, though, and good thing too since there are a lot of confusing things going on in his life. One day he’s popular and another he’s not. He’s been kicked out of his old school thanks to his grades. Then there’s the fact that his best friend is part of a reality show . . . well, things aren’t easy for Albie. But sometimes, when you’re not the best at anything, you can make it up to people by simply being the best kind of person.

Average people are tough. They don’t naturally lend themselves to great works of literature generally unless they’re a villain or the butt of a joke. Lots of heroes are billed as “average heroes” but how average are they really? Put another way, would they ever miscalculate a tip? Our fantasy books are full to overflowing of average kids finding out that they’re extraordinary (Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, Meg Murry, etc.). Now imagine that the book kept them ordinary. Where do you go from there? Credit where credit is due to Lisa Graff then. The literary challenge of retaining a protagonist’s everyday humdrum status is intimidating. Graff wrestles with the idea and works it to her advantage. For example, the big momentous moment in this book is when it turns out that Albie doesn’t have dyslexia and just isn’t good at reading. I’ve never seen that in a book for kids before, and it was welcome. It made it clear what kind of book we’re dealing with.

As a librarian who has read a LOT of children’s books starring “average” kids, I kept waiting for that moment when Albie discovered he had a ridiculously strong talent for, say, ukulele or poker or something. It never came. It never came and I was left realizing that it was possible that it never would. Kids are told all the time that someday they’ll find that thing that’ll make them unique. Well what if they don’t? What happens then? Absolutely Almost is willing to tell them the truth. There’s a wonderful passage where Calista and Albie are discussing the fact that he may never find something he’s good at. Calista advises, “Find something you’d want to keep doing forever… even if you stink at it. And then, if you’re lucky, with lots of practice, then one day you won’t stink so much.” Albie points out, correctly, that he might still stink at it and what then? Says Calista, “Then won’t you be glad you found something you love?”

Mind you, average heroes run a big risk. Absolutely Almost places the reader in a difficult position. More than one kid is going to find themselves angry with Albie for being dense. But the whole point of the book is that he’s just not the sharpest pencil in the box. Does that make the reader sympathetic then to his plight or a bully by proxy? It’s the age-old problem of handing the reader the same information as the hero but allowing them to understand more than that hero. If you’re smarter than the person you’re reading about, does that make you angry or understanding? I suppose it depends on the reader and the extent to which they can relate to Albie’s problem. Still, I would love to sit in on a kid book discussion group as they talked about Albie. Seems to me there will be a couple children who find their frustration with his averageness infuriating. The phrase “Choose Kind” has been used to encourage kids not to bully kids that look different than you. I’d be interested in a campaign that gave as much credence to encouraging kids not to bully those other children that aren’t as smart as they are.

I’ve followed the literary career of Lisa Graff for years and have always enjoyed her books. But with Absolutely Almost I really feel like she’s done her best work. The book does an excellent job of showing without telling. For example, Albie discusses at one point how good he is at noticing things then relates a teacher’s comment that, “if you had any skill at language, you might’ve made a very fine writer.” Graff then simply has Albie follow up that statement with a simple “That’s what she said.” You’re left wondering if he picked up on the inherent insult (or was it just a truth?) in that. Almost in direct contrast, in a rare moment of insight, his dad says something about Albie that’s surprising in its accuracy. “I think the hard thing for you, Albie… is not going to be getting what you want in life, but figuring out what that is.” I love a book that has the wherewithal to present these different sides of a single person. Such writing belies the idea that what Graff is doing here is simple.

Reading the book as a parent, I could see how my experience with Absolutely Almost was different from that of a kid reader. Take the character of Calista, for example. She’s a very sympathetic babysitter for Albie who does a lot of good for him, offering support when no one else understands. Yet she’s also just a college kid with a poorly defined sense of when to make the right and wrong choice. Spoiler Alert on the rest of this paragraph. When Albie’s suffering terribly she takes him out of school to go to the zoo and then fails to tell his parents about this executive decision on her part. A couple chapters later Albie’s mom finds out about the outing and Calista’s gone from their lives. The mom concludes that she can’t have a babysitter who lies to her and that is 100% correct. A kid reader is going to be angry with the mom, but parents, teachers, and librarians are going to be aware that this is one of those unpopular but necessary moves a parent has to face all the time. It’s part of being an adult. Sorry, kids. Calista was great, but she was also way too close to being a manic pixie dream babysitter. And trust me when I say you don’t want to have a manic pixie dream babysitter watching your children.

Remember the picture book Leo the Late Bloomer where a little tiger cub is no good at anything and then one day, somewhat magically, he’s good at EVERYTHING? Absolutely Almost is the anti-Leo the Late Bloomer. In a sense, the point of Graff’s novel is that oftentimes kindness outweighs intelligence. I remember a friend of mine in college once commenting that he would much rather that people be kind than witty. At the time this struck me as an incredible idea. I’d always gravitated towards people with a quick wit, so the idea of preferring kindness seemed revolutionary. I’m older now, but the idea hasn’t gone away. Nor is it unique to adulthood. Albie’s journey doesn’t reach some neat and tidy little conclusion by this story’s end, but it does reach a satisfying finish. Life is not going to be easy for Albie, but thanks to the lessons learned here, you’re confident that he’s gonna make it through. Let’s hope other average kids out there at least take heart from that. A hard book to write. An easy book to read.

On shelves now.

Source: Galley sent from publisher for review.

Like This? Then Try:

Other Blog Reviews:

Professional Reviews:

Other Reviews: BookPage

Interviews:

  • Lisa speaks with BookPage about the creation of the book.

share save 171 16 Review of the Day: Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff

beckybooks July 7 2014, 16:06

50 Children (2014)

http://blbooks.blogspot.com/2014/07/50-children-2014.html

50 Children: One Ordinary American Couple's Extraordinary Rescue Mission Into the Heart of Nazi Germany. Steven Pressman. 2014. HarperCollins. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

50 Children: One Ordinary American Couple's Extraordinary Rescue Mission Into the Heart of Nazi Germany is a must-read. It is incredibly compelling and, in my opinion, unforgettable. It tells the true story of an American Jewish couple, Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus, and how they diligently worked to save 50 Jewish children from Nazi Germany in 1939. Why 50? Well. They faced obstacles. You might think the biggest obstacles they faced were in Nazi Germany, working with the Nazi regime/government. And no doubt the obstacles they faced when they actually traveled there themselves to do the paperwork and bring over the children were many. But. What might surprise you is how BIG the obstacles were in the United States that they faced. The truth: the United States knew about the ever-increasing risks and dangers facing Jews, they knew that it was a matter of life-and-death, but they did not care. They simply did not care. They did not want Jewish immigrants. Plain and simple. There were laws in place, and those laws were kept strictly, limiting the number of immigrants, of Jewish immigrants. And loopholes had to be found, in a way, to get even those fifty into the United States. Want to know another sad truth? The couple faced opposition from Jewish Americans, from Jewish organizations in America! The book tells how some Jews worried that by bringing MORE Jews into the country, it would increase prejudice and hatred towards them.

The book tells the remarkable story of the men and women involved in this rescue mission. It tells of their determination and stubbornness, their perseverance, how they would not stop until it was accomplished, how they would not quit and say well, we tried, but, there's nothing more we can do. No, they could not turn away from what they knew to be right and good. It's an inspiring, courageous story.

I definitely recommend this one!

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
If you're reading this on a site (other than Becky's Book Reviews or Becky's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.
revisionnotes July 7 2014, 15:45

The Power of BECAUSE: How I Created a Dastardly Villain

http://www.darcypattison.com/characters/the-power-of-because/

http://www.darcypattison.com/?p=4973


Free Ebook

"amusing. . .engaging, accessible," says Publisher's Weekly


I am hard at work on an outline/synopsis sort of thingy for a new trilogy. I wish I could say it’s a true outline or synopsis, but I’m not an outliner. However, I’m not a panster either, to just start writing and write by the seat of my pants. I am a plan-ster, a person who halfway plans and then writes a while, and then plans again from the new and improved position halfway through the story.

While I’m outlining (term used loosely, as just explained), I am finding places where I am stuck. What happens next?

One word is changing things: Because.

My character argues with another BECAUSE. . .

By forcing myself to answer the BECAUSE question, I wind up going deeper into backstory, motivations and emotional depth. Why are they doing such and so? BECAUSE. . .

Backstory. Some of the because has to do with inventing backstory. This week, I found a villain that way. I knew Character V was acting up, but when I added the BECAUSE and started delving into V’s psychology and backstory, suddenly V took on a new–and much more interesting–role in the story. He became the antagonist, which I knew I needed, but I had been avoiding the work needed to figure it out. So, the BECAUSE work became a shortcut to finding out about a villain.

Motivations. For all the characters, the BECAUSE work meant I had to delve into the reasons for actions, the motivations. This deepened the story in important ways, even at this outline level. Partly, I am trying to find connections among characters and how they approach life at interesting tangents. As I worked on the BECAUSE answers, I made sure the answers weren’t clones, but held the possibility of interesting clashes.

Emotional Depth. This is saying the same thing as motivations in a different way, but it’s an important variation. Emotion is hard for me to pull into a story and planning for it up front is essential–or else my stories will be flat and revisions will be deadly. One question that helps here is, “Who hurts the most? X hurts the most BECAUSE. . .”

Fiction is about emotional conflict and how that conflict is resolved (or not). Generally, the person who hurts the most should be the main character. It’s not unusual to have to change the MC to a different character as you uncover and create the characters’ inner lives.

I am still stumbling around inside the ideas for this story. But one word is lighting a path toward actually writing a first draft: BECAUSE.


BECAUSE

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