Who's going to the National Book Festival this weekend? We've gone almost every year since we moved back to the Washington, DC area in 2002. This year is extra-special, though: my friend Madelyn Rosenberg's middle grade novel Canary in the Coal Mine (Holiday House, 2013) was chosen to represent the state of West Virginia as one the Library of Congress's 52 Great Reads. I think that could be Bitty (the canary in question) at the upper right of Suzy Lee's gorgeous festival poster, actually! Madelyn (not Bitty) will be at the Pavilion of the States on Saturday and would love it if you stopped by to say hello. Oh, there will be lots of other authors (and illustrators) at the Festival, too. We're hoping to hear Kevin Henkes on Saturday, or else Grace Lin on Sunday. Maybe both!
Fans of Baba Yaga stories whose appetite was whetted by Jillian Tamaki's retelling in Fairy Tale Comics (First Second, 2013) can look forward to E.D. Baker's middle grade novel A Question of Magic (Bloomsbury), available October 1. Here's the publisher's description:
"Serafina was living the normal life of a village girl, when she gets a mysterious letter--her first letter ever, in fact--from a great aunt she's never heard of in another village. Little does 'Fina know, her great aunt is actually a Baba Yaga, a magical witch who lives in an even more magical cottage.
Summoned to the cottage, Serafina's life takes an amazing turn as she finds herself becoming the new Baba Yaga. But leaving behind home and the boy she loves isn't easy, and as Serafina grows into her new and magical role answering the first question any stranger might ask her with the truth, she also learns about the person she's meant to be, and that telling the future doesn't always mean knowing the right answers."
[Me again.] So Serafina becomes Baba Yaga! Presumably she doesn't eat any little children. I didn't know Baba Yaga answered questions, either, but maybe that's because she doesn't like to--they age her (I know how that feels). Thanks to Jennifer at Jean Little Library for her review of A Question of Magic, which made me want to read the book; I'm glad I don't have long to wait.
[Apparently there is an Ask Baba Yaga advice column of sorts! Cryptic and completely unrelated to the book, though.]
This collection of Fairy Tale Comics: Classic Tales Told by Extraordinary Cartoonists (edited by Chris Duffy; First Second, 2013) first caught my eye at Charlotte's Library (it's on a blog tour). Fairy tales are my weakness: I might be a reluctant reader of graphic novels in general, but even I can't resist a collection of fairy tale comics. There are 17 different tales here, each adapted and illustrated by a different cartoonist, so there's lots to choose from in terms of both story (a nice mix of mostly familiar and some not-so tales) and style. I'll follow up with my favorites, too.
[Based on the cover art of Little Red Riding Hood (and laughing wolf) by Eleanor Davis, I was especially looking forward to that one, but it turns out that Gigi D.G. retold it (with female woodcutter) in the book!]
The National Book Awards longlist for young people's literature was announced today (the collage of cover images above is from the National Book Foundation, whcih administers the prize). This is the first year that the National Book Awards are running longlists: the five finalists will be announced on October 16, and the winner on November 20. Here's the longlist (with links courtesy of the Daily Beast):
The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt
Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K.G. Campbell
A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff
The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson
The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata
Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Far Far Away by Tom McNeal
Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff
The Real Boy by Anne Ursu, illustrated by Erin McGuire
Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang
Of the ten finalists, I've read two (Far, Far Away and The Real Boy; reviews to follow) and actively avoided reading two others (which shall remain nameless). I've also added two to my to-read list, but the one I'm most looking forward to is Meg Rosoff's Picture Me Gone (Putnam Juvenile), available October 3.
I like having lists for the National Book Awards, whose criteria (unlike that of, say, the Newbery) aren't strictly defined; instead, they're "whatever [the judges, mostly writers] deem appropriate." I wonder what criteria this year's judges are using?
Something about the cover of Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown (Little, Brown; 2013) reminded me of Henri Rousseau: maybe it was the top-hatted Mr. Tiger himself, or the oversized leaf shapes that make up the jungle surrounding him. Rousseau aside, Brown won a 2013 Caldecott Honor for Creepy Carrots (by Aaron Reynolds; Simon and Schuster, 2012) and seems like a really nice guy (I know this because he signed a poster for my daughter at BEA a couple of years ago), so I requested a review copy of Mr. Tiger Goes Wild--thank you, folks at Little, Brown!
Here's the story: Mr. Tiger is bored of being a prim and proper anthropomorphized animal. He wants to be...wild (he's a tiger, after all). It's the perfect premise for a picture book, and Brown delivers, depicting Mr. Tiger's transformation in two gorgeous, graphic (ahem) spreads. I don't want to give away the page turns--they make the book as far as I'm concerned--but someone in the publicity department at Little, Brown might want to mock up a poster.
Odds and endpapers: The illustrations for Mr. Tiger Goes Wild were "made with India ink, watercolor, gouache, and pencil on paper, then digitally composited and colored" (from About This Book); they remind me a little of Jon Klassen's work in the 2013 Caldecott Medal winner This is Not My Hat (Candlewick, 2012), actually. Bonus points for the illustrated endpapers and textured tiger-striped cover underneath the dust jacket, though. And for Mr. Tiger--roar! Available tomorrow.
Josanne La Valley's debut novel The Vine Basket (Clarion, 2013) is Merighul's story, and it's not an easy one: not for a 14-year-old girl who has to leave school to help on the family farm after her brother disappears, leaving her father embittered, her mother withdrawn, and herself in danger of being to sent away to work in a factory; and not as a Uyghur in East Turkestan, a land--and increasingly, a culture--dominated by the Han Chinese. Merighul has reason to hope when an American woman buys her vine basket for 100 yuan (just 16 American dollars, but more than Merighul's family might make at the market in a month) and says she'll come back in three weeks for more--but those three weeks bring more hardship, and Merighul may not have even one new basket to bring to market on the fateful day.
Merighul's story is almost unbearably hard (her little sister Lali's situation is heartbreaking, too). Thankfully, Merighul has the support of her grandfather Chong Ata, an artisan himself, and a true friend, Pati; and even though her future is not at all certain at the end of the book, it is at least more hopeful.
The Vine Basket reminded me in many ways--particularly in Merighul's dedication to her craft and descriptions of the basketweaving process--of A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park (also Clarion, 2001), although that book is about 12th century Korean pottery (Park reviewed The Vine Basket for the New York Times, 5/10/2013). A Single Shard is one of my favorite Newbery Medal winners, which should say something about how I feel about The Vine Basket. Required--and rewarding--reading.
[Black Garden (Tandem), 2009 from Living Shrines of Uyghur China: Photographs by Lisa Ross (The Monacelli Press, 2013). Merighul ties a thin strip of cloth like these to a bamboo culm with a prayer for skill and courage.]
Liz Kessler's series books starring Emily Windsnap and Philippa Fisher are tween girl favorites (we like Emily Windsnap, the half-mermaid, best), but her standalone books are equally appealling: this one, North of Nowhere (Candlewick, 2013), is part mystery, part magic--but to say more about what sort of magic it might be would give some of it away, so I'll stick to what Mia knows: she is stuck in a sleepy seaside village on the coast of Cornwall (no cell phones, no Internet) over spring break because her grandfather has gone missing, and she and her mother have to help Gran run the pub.
If Mia sounds a tiny bit self-absorbed, it's because she is--she's in eighth grade, after all--and Kessler's writing, in Mia's voice, reflects that. But she's also genuinely concerned about her grandfather, and eager to make friends: with a girl she gets to know by way of letters exchanged via an old diary (I loved this part), and a boy, Peter, who's determined to help the two girls meet. She's also willing to walk the dog (Flake, a border collie--I liked him, too).
The girl in the diary (Mia knows her only as Dee) lives on the island of Luffsands, off the coast of Cornwall, which complicates matters when stormy weather makes it impossible for her to get to the mainland village of Porthaven, where Mia is waiting for her. And then Peter disappears, and Mia suspects he's gone to Luffsands to find Dee.
At risk of revealing too much, the island of Luffsands is based on the true story of Hallsands, a British village that collapsed into the sea almost a hundred years ago--but even with that information, it's almost impossible to know where the story is going until it's gotten there. And even then, you might have trouble believing it! Don't say Mia didn't warn you.
[This print is of South Hall Sands circa 1900, by Gerry Miles (2007). It's just how I imagined the village of Porthaven might look, too.]
Apparently I have to write this post in order to claim my blog on bloglovin'. That said, I am regretting having gone with feedly rather than bloglovin' after the demise of Google Reader (sniff), and am trying to switch everything I read over once more. Thank you for following me on whatever reader you use, or just clicking over from Facebook or twitter or a random comment or link out there on the Internets. I'm glad you made it.
This will be a review (and giveaway!) of The Spotted Dog Last Seen by Jessica Scott Kerrin (Groundwood, 2013), but first, an anecdote: When we moved to Ann Arbor as newlywed graduate students, my husband and I lived in a tiny apartment at Observatory Lodge. The Lodge was a lovely old Tudor-style building, herringbone brick and half-timbered, with slate roofs and faulty wiring. It was also adjacent to the old Forest Hill Cemetery, and I sometimes walked through it on the way home. I never lingered long, though, and knowing more about cemeteries now I wish I could.
Derek is somewhat less excited about reporting for cemetery duty (his Grade 6 community service project) at Twillingate, or at the old stone library (a converted church) across the street where the cemetery brigade gives lessons in reading weathered marble, the meaning of gravestone carvings, how to take rubbings, etc. I find this sort of thing fascinating (eventually Derek and his friends Pascal and Merrilee do, too); and I wouldn't be surprised if young readers of The Spotted Dog Last Seen will want to explore the local cemetery themselves. If not, there is also a secret code, contained in mystery novels borrowed from the old library, and a time capsule in a school locker. This last holds clues that connect various people to the accidental death of Derek's friend seven years before--and may help Derek put his memories of that day to rest.
Warning: sad things happen. Someone dies (in addition to Derek's friend). But there is a satisfying resolution, for Derek and for the reader, who can piece together the clues along with him. There is also a supporting (and supportive) cast of characters to lighten the mood a bit, although The Spotted Dog Last Seen is still a somewhat serious and thought-provoking book, perfect for fall reading.
And just in time, I have a copy of The Spotted Dog Last Seen to give away! Please leave a comment and let me know if you think you (or a young reader you know) might like it, and I'll be happy to send it to you--with my recommendation, and thanks to Groundwood Books!
What do you think of the new Harry Potter covers by Kazu Kibuishi, writer and artist of the graphic novel series AMULET? Now that all of the cover images have been released (they will be on trade paperbacks in September), it's easier to see what they have in common, and how they compare to the iconic American covers by Mary GrandPre. Kibuishi's covers--my favorite is still the first, for Sorceror's Stone, but I also like The Prisoner of Azkaban--tend to look more like full shots rather close-ups, and they're all outside. The back covers are indoors and, appropriately enough, of Harry's back--as he's looking into the Mirror of Erised, for example, or a cabinet full of boggarts. I like the image of Hogwarts made by the spines of all seven books in the box set, too: Kibuishi designed the whole package.
It's my understanding that the new editions will retain GrandPre's chapter art (also known as "decorations"), which is good news for people like me who love black-and-white illustrations in children's books and wish more of the newer ones had them.