Wednesday, January 29, 2014

YA Wednesday: 2014 Printz Award Winners



The Printz award is always exciting because there are no lists of nominated titles or finalists--it's anyone's guess and sometimes the outcome is not what I expected (I'm thinking of last year's omission of The Fault in Our Stars).  For 2014, there were four honor books alongside winner Midwinterblood, including our own pick for the best YA book of 2013, Eleanor & Park.   Here are all five recipients of this year's Michael L. Printz award and honors--consider it a great way to choose your next book.

  • Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick - Winner!: Seven intertwined stories told through time, Midwinterblood has been compared to Cloud Atlas but it also carries a dark edge of horror mixed in with love and fate. Highly praised by critics and readers alike, this is a novel that grabs on with both hands.
  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell - Honor: 2013 was the year of Rainbow Rowell as far as I'm concerned.  Now I really want to go back and read her adult novel, AttachmentsEleanor & Park is contemporary fiction at its best and this story of family, coming-of-age, and first love tattooed itself on my memory and heart.
  • The Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal - Honor: In this debut novel, detailed descriptions evoke the daily life and political atmosphere of the royal court during the European Renaissance.  Two young women laboring in the court--a seamstress and a mute nursemaid--become entwined with mad Queen Isabel and a struggle of power and greed.
  • Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner - Honor: Brutal, allegorical, and original, Maggot Moon is set in a nightmarish alternate 1956 under a ruthless totalitarian government.  Our narrator is a teenage boy with his own set of problems, who uncovers a global hoax that, if exposed, could destroy the regime under which he's been suffering.  Short chapters that pack a punch.
  • Navigating Early by Claire Vanderpool - Honor:   Vanderpool won a Newbery Medal for Moon Over Manifest in 2011 and she's a masterful storyteller.  Navigating Early, set at the end of WWII, follows two boys on an epic journey along the Appalachian Trail.  There, they encounter pirates, a mythic bear, hardship, and finally forgiveness.

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Monday, January 27, 2014

2014 Children's Book Award Winners



This morning I jumped out of bed at the crack of five a.m. to watch a webcast of the American Library Association awards ceremony taking place in Philadelphia.  Think of this as the Academy Awards of children's books, only early in the morning and minus the red carpet.  Some of my favorites from last year were awarded the top prizes, including the Newbery Medal winner, Flora and Ulysses by the recently announced National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, Kate DiCamillo.  What a great start to 2014 she's having!  Here are the winning and honored books or two of the biggest awards, the Caldecott and the Newbery--I hope you see some that you loved here, too.  

Caldecott Medal for Picture Book Illustration

  • Locomotive by Brian Floca - Winner! Explore America's early love for trains with a journey on the transcontinental railroad.
  • Journey by Aaron Becker - Honor book In the spirit of Harold and the Purple Crayon this wordless picture book uses gorgeous illustrations to take a lonely girl on a magical adventure.
  • Mr. Wuffles! by David Weisner - Honor book Winner of multiple Caldecott awards, Weisner has done it again with a flight of fancy when a cat named Mr. Wuffles and a tiny spaceship of space aliens collide.

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Newbery Medal Winner for Children's Literature:

  • Doll Bones by Holly Black - Honor book Three friends on the verge of leaving a beloved childhood game behind, until the lure of a ghost makes walking away impossible.  Creepy, fun, and heart-warming adventure.
  • The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes - Honor book Billy Miller's second grade year starts out a bit bumpy (literally with a lump on his head) but as the days go by, things start looking up and he finds his groove.  A sweet and funny story about growing up for early elementary schoolers. 
  • One Came Home by Amy Timberlake - Honor book 1871 Placid, Wisconsin is home to sharp-shooting, no nonsense 13-year-old by the name of Georgie Burkhardt.  When her older sister disappears, Georgie sets out to find her despite the danger that awaits her on the western frontier.
  • Paperboy by Vince Vawter - Honor Summer of '59 changes everything for an 11-year-old boy with a serious fastball and a crippling stutter in segregated Memphis.  A paper route opens up his neighbors' lives in new ways, and a run-in with a dangerous bully results in a stunning display of love.

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You can see more award winning books, including this year's winners of the Coretta Scott King and Theodor Seuss Geisel Award here.



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With a Grain of Salt: P.J. O'Rourke and Dave Barry in Conversation



Baby BoomBaby Boom

In the first paragraph of the prologue to his new book, The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way... And It Wasn't My Fault... And I'll Never Do It Again, political humor writer P.J. O'Rourke declares in no uncertain terms that he is "full of crap." Similarly, in the introduction to his upcoming book You Can Date Boys When You're Forty, humor columnist Dave Barry explains that his book, despite its subtitle "Parenting and Other Topics He Knows Very Little About," is not about parenting.

It's easy to imagine that when these two bestselling authors and longtime pals get together, commiserative silliness ensues. But in this case, no imagination is necessary. We popped in on an email exchange between these two masters of existential trolling. Here's what happened:

Dave Barry: P.J. — I loved The Baby Boom which manages to be both hilarious and insightful. What I want to know is: How did you remember all that stuff? Especially about the '60s. Didn't you take drugs? Of course not! Neither did I! Drugs are bad! But my memories of that era are very purple-hazy, whereas you seem to remember every detail of everything that happened. How did you do that?

P.J. O'Rourke: I made it up. I'm a professional reporter. I'm PAID to make things up. Actually, I do remember a lot about the '60s. Probably because I still know a lot of the same people. And they're still yelling at me about things I did back then. Keeps memories fresh. Sort of like a wife. Just kidding, dear. Sort of like a first wife. And I loved You Can Date Boys When You're Forty. You admit you went to a Justin Bieber concert. Kind of pushing the envelope even for a confessional memoir. You're brave, dude, brave.

DB: I did indeed go to a Justin Bieber concert, because my daughter really really really wanted to go because she LOVED Justin Bieber. It was terrifying. I was in Coral Gables, Florida, in 1992 when Hurricane Andrew passed over and nearly took off the roof of the home in which I was cowering. I understood then why the noise of a hurricane is always compared to a freight train. What it SHOULD be compared to is a Justin Bieber concert. Given the choice, I'd rather sit through Andrew again.

PJO: When I pick my daughters up from school they, for some reason I can't imagine, don't want to listen to Rush Limbaugh, and so they tune the radio to what sounds to me like somebody donated 200 drum sets and an Auto-Tune to a juvenile delinquent corrections facility. But does this mean today's music sucks? Yes.

DB: So true. Our music had feeling, but it also had MEANING. I refer specifically to the song that I view as the Anthem of the '60s; a song I played at countless fraternity parties when I was a student at Haverford College and belonged to a band called the Federal Duck. I refer, of course, to "Land of 1,000 Dances," and the lyrics that spoke to our generation: "I said na, na na na na, na na na na, na na na, na na na na, na na na na." These kids today have NOTHING LIKE THAT.

PJO: Justin Bieber could learn a lot from Cannibal and the Headhunters, if you ask me. For one thing, he could learn to disappear without a trace. Although I understand he has retired. Which makes a 66-year-old person with three kids to put though college feel GREAT. On the other hand, looks like he’ll be spending his golden years in jail instead of a nursing home. Thought you captured the fear-inducing nature of having teen daughters in the house perfectly. I use a subtle technique when boys are around. I shout to my wife, "Hey, Honey, did you pick up the new ten-round magazine for my Glock at the gun store?"

DB: I don't have a Glock, because I live in Miami, where weapons that small are viewed as party favors. I agree, though, that it is very important, with daughters, to teach them about boys, and by "teach them about" I mean "keep them a minimum of three regulation football fields away from." Which brings us to sex. You talk about it in your book, and I talk about it in my book, and I think that anybody reading our books would have to conclude that we have no idea what we're talking about, because we are men. I don't really have a question here. I'm just pointing out that our books contain SEX TALK.

PJO: They sure do!!! LOTS AND LOTS OF SEX TALK. Because that's what sells books. And, speaking of books, I was impressed by the depth of understanding and the sheer intellectual brilliance in your essay about Fifty Shades of Grey. Haven't read it myself, but I gather any sane adult male would tie the young lady protagonist to the bed -- and leave her there and go to a sports bar.

DB: I did indeed courageously and without the aid of pharmaceuticals read Fifty Shades of Grey, and I have to say that, although a lot of people said the writing is terrible, those people were 100 percent correct. The book does, however, explain What Women Want. They don't want a guy who's really handsome and has a great body. No! Women are not that shallow! They want a guy who's really handsome and has a great body and is also a billionaire. (Which explains why I never got anywhere.) But the point is, our books contain SEX TALK and also a technique for losing up to 700 pounds in a week without dieting. My question to you is: Can you think of any reason why anybody would NOT buy our books? Aside from the fact that we are lying?

PJO: No, Dave, I can't. And you're leaving out the psychological self-help that you and I are justly famed for providing in our published work. My book, for instance, helps readers overcome OCD by simply buying 1,000 copies and sending one to each person on their Christmas Letter email list in alphabetical order with the envelopes addressed in tiny precise handwriting. And all our DIY tips too! For example, I learned that self-help technique by reading your "How to Become a Professional Author" chapter. I was especially wowed by your children's book "Merle Moth Does a Big Thing," which I assume you have sold to the movies. Do people who write books for small children spend an hour a year working? Or does it sometimes take them two hours?

DB: It is a fact that The Very Hungry Caterpillar -- which has sold more copies than you and I and Stephen King combined -- was written on a bet in 27 seconds underwater. But the point that I think we are both trying without success to make here is that both your book and my book are for sale in exchange for money, which I for one could use because my daughter no longer loves Justin Bieber, which means I have to buy tickets to a concert by something called "One Direction." In conclusion, I want to thank everybody who took the time to read this frank exchange of views between two veteran authors with a lot on their minds. If you were in any way offended by any of the comments you read here, I want to say, in all sincerity, on behalf of both P.J. and me, that those comments were his.


The Baby Boom by P.J. O'Rourke is out now.
You Can Date Boys When You're Forty by Dave Barry will be out March 4, and is available for pre-order now.



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Friday, January 24, 2014

Graphic Novel Friday: Must-Reads in 2014



We consulted Doctor Strange’s Eye of Agamotto to find key upcoming releases in 2014, and the next few months are stuffed with infinity gems. Here are but a few we uncovered.

 

The grand and grizzled Gandalf of comics, Alan Moore, has a banner year ahead, beginning with Miracleman Vol. 1: A Dream of Flying, the sought-after but legally hushed series that will finally be available thanks to Marvel’s legal prowess. Billed only as “The Original Writer” in this new edition (per his wishes), Alan Moore kicks off the superhero deconstruction era of comics by writing a single exclamation: “Kimota!” Plus, it features artwork by Alan Davis, Garry Leach, Steve Dillon, and Paul Neary. (May, Marvel) 

 

 

 

The market needs more horror comics, and horror comics need more witchcraft. Enter Coffin Hill Vol. 1: Forest of the Night by Caitlin Kittredge Inaki Miranda to remedy both in a spooky brew. Eve Coffin (that name!) returns home after 10 years to find her supernatural forest murder mystery remains unsolved. Blood, incantations, snakes, and snarky witches galore. (May, Vertigo) 

 

 

Very few comics become in-house favorites like the King of the Flies series: Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 were both in our Best of the Year picks for 2010 and 2011, respectively. Now, the late Kim Thompson-translated project will finally conclude with King of The Flies Vol. 3: Happy Daze.  The description promises more hallucinatory creepiness and nihilism—and Ringo, the disturbed bowling greaser—but not much else is known. Fitting, that this series has so far been about the coiling questions it raises—do yourself a dark favor and start the series now. (September, Fantagraphics)

 

 

 

Confession: I’ve never read Elfquest and know very little about it, except that it appears to involve cute, doll-like elves with leather vests, big hair, swords, and animal friends. It’s also beloved by a devoted readership that swears it’s about much more than my limited understanding. Gauntlet thrown! The Complete Elfquest Vol. 1 by Wendy and Rick Pini arrives this summer to set me straight. (August, Dark Horse)

 

 

 Afterlife with Archie should not be this good, but I swear on my Romero DVDs that it is—in every bloody way. Most of this is due to Francesco Francavilla’s never-dull, atypical take on the Riverdale crew—here they all are as young adults, not cartoons. But Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s script is both an homage to classic horror (Stephen King’s Pet Sematary is freely referenced) but also a did-they-really-just-do-that? mature take on the franchise. Awash in autumnal hues, the grisly panels and gallows humor will reanimate any interest in Betty, Veronica, Archie, and company. (May, Archie Comics)

For five more picks in 2014, see also our Kindle Daily post! What are you most looking forward to in this new year, Omni readers?

--Alex

 



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Women in Wartime: Four New Historical Novels



One of the interesting things that happens when you read a lot is that you can sometimes notice patterns in books: a fashion for dystopian novels, for example, or a trend toward the injection of the magical into otherwise realistic fiction. And to say that historical novels have been very much in vogue of late is something of an understatement: from The Paris Wife to The Invention of Wings, publishers and readers have enjoyed plenty of benefits from stories that spring from real-life persons or events. But lately, I've noticed, there's a growing subset to the historical novel: the historical novel that features women in wartime. The new year has brought us at least these four:

The Secret of Raven Point

The Secret of Raven Point

Author: Jennifer Vanderbes
Era: WWII
Storyline: A 17 year old girl, very close to her older brother, lies about her age to go and search for him in the battlefields of Europe.
What's Special About It: 
Heroine Juliet is a young woman of uncommon pluck and the war scenes are grimly powerful, but it's the opening scenes between her and her brother that resonate with a Scout and Jim quality reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird.
Extra Note:
Vanderbes is the author of the equally wonderful, award-winning Easter Island.
A Star for Mrs. Blake

A Star for Mrs. Blake

Author: April Smith
Era: Set in the 1930s, it focuses on vets from WWI.
Storyline: Based on a little known government initiative called the Gold Star Program, in which mothers of WWI casualties were flown to Europe by the US government to visit their sons' graves.
What Readers are Saying: "
Can I give this book TEN stars?" asks Amazon Vine reviewer Patricia Mejia Burke
Fun Fact:
April Smith also writes the popular Ana Grey mystery series
I Shall Be Near to You

I Shall Be Near to You

Author: Erin Lindsay McCabe
Era: Civil War
Storyline: A young woman cross-dresses so she can fight alongside her husband.
Why She Wrote It:
While searching for a primary source on which to base a paper in a Women's History course, McCabe came upon some letters from a woman who impersonated a man and became a soldier. "[She] dress[ed] as a man to get work on a canal boat and ... it only took her one boat ride up the river to find out that being a soldier for the 153rd New York State Volunteers paid better than any job she could find: $13 a month plus a $152 signing bonus," McCabe said.
The Wind is Not a River

The Wind is Not a River

Author: Brian Payton
Era: WWII
Storyline: A woman goes in search of her beloved husband, shot down over Alaska.
Special Feature:
Much of the book takes place in the beautiful, dramatic Aleutian Islands, an unusual venue for both war and love stories.
What People Are Saying About It: Amazon Senior Editor Neal Thompson, called this Best of the Month pick for January "earnest" and "ambitious." And beloved librarian and NPR commentator Nancy Pearl interviewed Payton here.



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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

YA Wednesday How I Wrote It: Laurie Halse Anderson



Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak has become rite of passage reading for young women and I think her newest book, The Impossible Knife of Memory, is destined for the same. This time Anderson tackles the difficult subject of mental illness--in this case PTSD--in a modern family, and also the lighter (though sometimes difficult) experience of falling in love.  Though she is busy touring for The Impossible Knife of Memory,  Anderson took time out for some "how I wrote it" questions and I hope you enjoy reading about her life and work as much as I have.  I'm also insanely jealous of her book cottage.

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Who I wrote this book for: The early drafts of this book were written for me. They helped me worked through old feelings of confusion and sadness left over from when I was a teenager and my father was struggling with PTSD. When I started revising, I turned the focus away from me and started thinking about my readers, especially those whom love someone whom is struggling with mental illness.

How this book is different from my previous books: While it takes on a dark topic like my other books, this one is balanced by a love story and by friendship. I really enjoyed writing a story that had so much hope and laughter in it.

Space: I’ve written everywhere from a closet to the front seat of the car. Then I married a carpenter. He built me a writing cottage in the woods near our house. It has a ten-foot tall magic window that he found in a salvage yard and a wood stove that keeps me warm in the winter. I only do creative things in the cottage: writing, reading, drawing, etc. All business work, like email or paying bills, is done in the house. While I’m traveling this spring, rumor has it that he’s building me a wall of bookcases, too!

Here’s a video about the building of the cottage:

 

Tools: I love a thin-line gel pen (black ink) and heavy paper when I’m pondering a new book idea but, I’ll use anything when an idea hits, including an eyebrow pencil and grocery store receipts. Once I can hear the voice of my main character, I move to my laptop because I can type much faster than I can write. I try to spend a couple of hours a day working on the laptop while walking slowly on a treadmill. I recently started using dictation software because of carpal tunnel and tendinitis. I’m not sure if I like it yet, but it sure is easier on my arms.

Soundtrack: I like a huge range of music, from classic rock to country to alternative, some rap, and classical. Each book winds up with an eclectic playlist. Songs with lyrics can sometimes interfere with the flow of words in my head. When that happens, I put on ambient sounds, like recordings of waves or the music of Sigur Rós. Sometimes I play the music quietly, sometimes I crank it until the windows shake to bring up my energy level. It’s amazing how creative you can be after you dance until the sweat runs down your face.

Temptation: When I’m writing I avoid the Internet until the day’s work is done. If I’m feeling anxious about my Work In Progress, I avoid reading any and all reviews of my already-published books, even if they’re sent to me by kindly bloggers who liked them. I have an uncanny ability to distort positive reviews and make them into scathing denouncements of my writing and then I become a self-loathing wretch. It’s hard to write when I hate myself, so avoiding reviews is a healthy thing.

Surprises: I didn’t expect to enjoy writing the love story aspect of the book so much. Once Hayley and Finn started sparring, I had a blast figuring out how to move their relationship forward (and backward!).  I was surprised at how much sympathy I had for Hayley’s father, too. That’s why I put in the short chapters told from his point-of-view. Once you know what he survived, it’s impossible to hate him. ---Laurie Halse Anderson



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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Yesterday & Today: 50 Years of the Beatles by the Books



It's rare that we can say with any degree of certainty that we know what 60 percent of the American population was doing at a specific moment in time. But we do know that at 8 p.m. on Feb. 9, 1964 a majority of us were sitting in front of a television set. It's been 50 years since the Beatles' debut appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. And while 50 years is often a measure of time exploited to elicit exclamations of "Wow, has it really been that long? It seems like only yesterday...," in this case, it truly demonstrates the longevity of the Beatles' impact on American culture.

At the Grammys on Jan. 26, the Beatles will receive a lifetime achievement award, punctuated with a reunion performance by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. Then, on Feb. 9, CBS will air "The Night that Changed America: A Grammy Salute to the Beatles."

To do our part in celebrating this legendary band, we've put together a just a few books -- old, new, and upcoming -- that explore the cultural history of the Beatles, the timelessness of the Beatles' music, the intense fandom, the bandmembers as authors, and those folks who were behind or just before the phenomenon and are known as the "Fifth Beatle." 

Beatles History

From their roots as Liverpool lads to their many appearances on BBC radio and TV; from their  U.S. invasion to the effect they had around the world.

Six Days
The Beatles:
Six Days that
Changed the World
February 1964

by Bill Eppridge
Feb. 4, 2014
Changed the World
How the Beatles
Changed the World

by Martin W. Sandler
Feb. 4, 2014
Tune In
Tune In: The Beatles:
All These Years

by Mark Lewisohn
Oct. 29, 2013
Beatle Invasion!
The Beatle Invasion!:
The inside story of
the two-week tour
that rocked America

by Bob Spitz
Jan. 7, 2014

When They Were Boys
When They Were Boys:
The True Story
of the Beatles'
Rise to the Top

by Larry Kane
July 30, 2013

BBC Archives
The Beatles:
The BBC Archives:
1962-1970

by Kevin Howlett
Oct. 29, 2013

Beatles Music

At the root of it all... the music. The songs they created together, the songs that inspired them, the songs they wrote on their own.

All The Songs
All The Songs:
The Story Behind
Every Beatles Release

by Philippe Margotin
and Jean-Michel Guesdon
Oct. 22, 2013
Hard Day's Write
A Hard Day's Write:
The Stories Behind
Every Beatles Song

by Steve Turner
Oct. 18, 2005
Still the Greatest
Still the Greatest:
The Essential Songs of
The Beatles' Solo Careers

by Andrew Grant Jackson
May 9, 2014
From Me to You
From Me to You:
Songs the Beatles
Covered and Covers
of the Fab Four's Songs

by Brian Southall
Feb. 11, 2014
Revolution in the Head
Revolution in the Head:
The Beatles' Records
and the Sixties

by Ian MacDonald
Sept. 1, 2007
Abbey Road Years
The Complete Beatles Recording
Sessions: The Official Story of
the Abbey Road Years 1962-1970

by Mark Lewisohn
Introduction by Paul McCartney
Oct. 1, 2013

For and About Beatles Fans

Images from within the inner circle, a two-part epic collection of facts, a look at the Beatles as a marketing franchise, and memories from the everyday and famous fans the band attracted.

Fifty Years
Fifty Years with The Beatles
by Tim Hill
May 28, 2014
Beatles Collected
The Beatles Collected
by Pete Nash, David Roberts
and Brian Southall
May 27,2014
Beatles Are Here
The Beatles Are Here!:
50 Years after
the Band Arrived in
America, Writers, Musicians & Other
Fans Remember

by Penelope Rowlands
Feb. 4, 2014
Beatles Encyclopedia
The Beatles Encyclopedia:
Everything Fab Four

by Kenneth Womack
June 30, 2014

Books by the Lads

Going straight to the source: the oft-dubbed "ultimate authority" anthology, intimate correspondance from John, memoirs from George, and an illustrated/multimedia interpratation of a classic Ringo tune. 

Beatles Anthology
The Beatles Anthology
by The Beatles
Oct. 5, 2000
Lennon Letters
The John Lennon Letters
by John Lennon
Oct. 9, 2012
I, Me, Mine
I, Me, Mine
by George Harrison
March 8, 2007
Octopus's Garden
Octopus's Garden
by Ringo Starr and Ben Cort
Feb. 4, 2014

Fifth Beatles

Manager, producer, short-time bandmates -- get to know those who have garnered the moniker "Fifth Beatle."

All You Need Is Ears
All You Need Is Ears:
The inside personal
story of the genius
who created
The Beatles

by George Martin
Oct. 15, 1994
Pete Best
Beatle!: The Pete Best Story
by Pete Best
and Patrick Doncaster
Dec. 1994
Fifth Beatle
The Fifth Beatle:
The Brian Epstein Story

by Vivek TiwaryNov. 19, 2013
Baby's in Black
Baby's in Black:
Astrid Kirchherr,
Stuart Sutcliffe,
and the Beatles

by Arne Bellstorf
February 4, 2014


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