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I just found out that there's a third book in Maggie Stiefvater's Books of Faerie series due out later this year.
Pardon me WHILE I HYPERVENTILATE!
It's not every day that you read a book set in Vienna that has really nothing to do with the stereotypical Vienna. I mean, there's the odd schnitzel, a few mentions of Mozart, but only in a passing kind of way. It's funny how some cities seem to... Read the rest of this post
Information technology and new technological devices are revolutionizing the world of literature, and children’s literature is no different. The ever-increasing numbers of e-books and e-readers in recent years has sparked debate about whether or not e-books are bad for the book industry or reading in general. This argument has been especially critical in the arena of children’s literature. Though children’s e-books have both their improvements and downsides over print books, they achieve the same goal of reaching out to children and telling stories or conveying information in a way that children can understand and enjoy.
One improvement e-books have over print books is the superior picture quality of e-books. This is particularly important for a lot of children’s books. Lots of children’s books, both fiction and nonfiction, contain beautiful color illustrations or photographs. Backlighting on computers or iPads make these pictures brighter and more vivid, enhancing the child’s enjoyment and reading experience. Additionally, pictures which splay across two pages and are split down the middle by a page divide in a print book look better on a screen where there is no page divide.
There are other improvements. Audio books enable young children to hear stories without their parents having to read to them. This way if parents are doing something else the kids can have a book out and have a computer read it to them, and parents can interact from the kitchen or the driver’s seat (“What’s the picture of?” “What kind of sound does that animal make?” etc) without having to take their eyes off the stove or the road to read the book. Additionally the fact that iPads, e-readers, computers, and other electronic devices can hold hundreds of e-books in a tablet that takes up about as much space as one book makes them convenient for traveling and ensures that children always have something new to read.
Parents will like that the e-books are often cheaper and more durable than print books. Our favorite books all suffer from over-use – dog eared pages, worn covers, pages falling out. These happen even to adults’ favorite books, and most kids are far less careful with their things. E-books don’t have pages that can fall out or covers that can get bent in the bottom of a backpack. There are durable tablets available so that kids can drop the e-readers without breaking them.
The most important thing is to get children reading and to get them reading good books. Fiction has to have characters and an interesting plot. Children get this from the story itself, not the media. Harry Potter is still Harry Potter whether you’re reading about him in the familiar-smelling, dog-eared pages of the books you’ve had for years or whether you’re reading about him on a computer screen with the movie soundtrack emitting from the same computer. The same idea goes for nonfiction. Children’s nonfiction has to have information that keeps the child engaged and which the author explains on the child’s level. These qualities are things that both print books and e-books have in common. The goal is still the same – to get kids reading and interacting with language and information. Information is powerful no matter the media through which it is conveyed.
For more information on children’s e-books from Sylvan Dell, go to Amazon. Our e-books are $0.99 through the 18th of May.
Wednesday Writing Workout comes from Holly Thompson, a fellow TeachingAuthor, just in time to
celebrate yesterday’s Delacorte/Random House release of her second young adult
novel in verse, The Languge Inside.
The novel tells
the story of Emma Karas “who was raised in Japan; it’s the country she calls
home. But when her mother is diagnosed
with breast cancer, Emma’s family moves to a town outside Lowell,
Massachusetts, to stay with Emma’s grandmother while
her mom undergoes treatment.
Emma feels out of place in the United States. She begins to have migraines, and
longs to be back in Japan. At her grandmother's urging, she volunteers in a
long-term care center to help Zena, a patient with locked-in syndrome, write
down her poems. There, Emma meets Samnang, another volunteer, who assists
elderly Cambodian refugees. Weekly visits to the care center, Zena's poems,
dance, and noodle soup bring Emma and Samnang closer, until Emma must make a
painful choice: stay in Massachusetts, or return home early to Japan.”
The starred School Library Journal review called the
novel “a sensitive and compelling read that will inspire teens to contemplate
how they can make a difference.”
Kirkus described the novel as “an artistic picture of
devastation, fragility, bonds and choices.”
The Horn Book Magazine remarked that “readers will finish
the book knowing that, like Zena, the Cambodian refugees, and the tsunami
victims, Emma has the strength to ‘a hundred times fall down / a hundred and
one times get up.’”
TeachingAuthors readers met Holly in 2011 when my March 16 Student Success Story
interview celebrated the release of her first
young adult novel in verse, Orchards.
Orchards went on to win the APALA Asian/Pacific
American Award for Literature.
Raised in Massachusetts,
Holly earned a B.A. in biology from Mount Holyoke College and an M.A. in
English (concentration creative writing/fiction) from New York University’s
Creative Writing Program. A longtime resident of Japan, Holly teaches creative
writing at Yokohama City University and also serves as Regional Advisor for the
Japan Chapter of SCBWI. Holly’s fiction
often relates to Japan and Asia.
Holly, on yet another successful book!
And, thank you
for sharing your expertise with our TeachingAuthors readers – who happen to
have only until Sunday, May 19 to enter our TeachingAuthors Blogiversary
Click here to
enter – if you haven’t already – the raffle to win one of 4 $25 Anderson’s
Bookshop Gift Certificates.
Holly Thompson’s Wednesday Writing
Workout: Poetry with a Plot
When I do author
school visits, I love to introduce students to narrative poems and narrative
verse and get them started on writing their own. You can write and/or teach
this type of poetry, too – poetry I call “Poetry with a Plot.”
1. Gather some
narrative poems—poems that tell a story—to share with students. Examples are
Gary Soto’s “Oranges,” Jeffrey Harrison’s “Our Other Sister,”
Naomi Shihab Nye’s “My Father and theFig Tree,” and “Fifteen”
or “Traveling Through The Dark,” by William Stafford, and my poem “Cod” (published in PoetryFriday Anthology Middle School)
2. Also gather
some verse novels. Select one scene to share with students. Choose a scene that
has a fairly clear beginning, middle and end. Chapter 22, Visitors, of my novel Orchards
is an example of a scene in verse with
a clear plot arc.
3. Create a list
of situations to share with students. Here are a few examples of some
situations that I like to use:
a first time
a last time
1. Read the
narrative poems aloud. For each narrative poem, ask students to react. Ask:
What lines or stanzas do you like? Why? What is the mini plot of the poem—what
happens in this poem? Then have them look at the structure and style of the
poem. Ask: Do the structure and style help create the narrative? How?
2. Read aloud a
scene from a verse novel. Ask students to react. Ask: What lines or stanzas do
you like? What lines move you? What lines are powerful? Where did your breath
catch? Where did the pace pick up or slow down? Why? What is the basic plot arc
of the scene? Did any action happen off the page? How did the writer structure
the scene and create tension—with repetition, white space, short lines, long
lines, particular images, or sounds and rhythms?
3. Next, give
students your list of situations. Have students brainstorm examples of the
various types of situations. Students will then choose one type of situation
from which to create a narrative poem or scene in verse. Point out, for
example, that “Oranges” can be considered a first time poem; “Our Other Sister”
a lie poem; “Fifteen” and “Traveling Through the Dark” decision poems; and
“Cod” a betrayal poem. Chapter 22 in Orchards
might be considered an encounter scene. Tell students they can start from a
true situation, or partially fictionalize a situation, or veer away from actual
truth to completely fictionalize a situation.
students create first drafts of their narrative poems or scenes, have them work
at revising, individually and in peer workshops, checking for the narrative
arc, details, poetic elements, line breaks and spacing.
5. Finally when
students have polished their work, have students read, perform, create
multimedia presentations, publish in zines or submit their narrative poems or
scenes in verse to school magazines.
Be prepared to
be amazed! Good luck and let me know if you try this approach to introducing
narrative poems and and narrative verse.
As I always get a giggle out of Travis Jonker's One Star Review Guess Who posts, I figured I'd swipe the idea and post the occasional one-star Amazon review of a much-lauded YA title.
So, can you guess what book this disappointed reader is reviewing?:
[Title] is the worst book I have ever had the distaste of reading, the entire story is based around a terribly ridicoulous plot with an awaiting climax that never happens. All the characters are tremendously exagerrated and all deserve to have someone around to pulverize them. [Author] failed completely on a terrible story, characters, and overall plot. Just the idea is insane, kids getting beaten up and half dead over some stupid chocolates. If you enjoy childish stories, idiotic characters, and reading about [protagonist]: The Loser's Life purchase this book immediately. If you rather spend your life doing something meaningful go get a good Tom Clancy or Clive Cussler novel.
Click on through for the answer!
Walter Dean Myers' Monster has been retained for use in seventh grade classrooms in an Illinois school district (and, yes, they provide an alternate book for students/parents who object to the book):
Daniels, meanwhile, said she's very unhappy with the district's
decision. She adds that the book, according to many reviews she's read,
is actually intended for children no younger than 13.
some of her friends have opted for the alternative book, but their kids
still have to sit in class while the book is discussed. Daniels added
that she'll opt for the alternative if Monster is still is use when her
child enters the seventh grade.
The fate of The Little Black Book for Girlz, meanwhile, is still up in the air at Taft High 7-12 in Lincoln City, Oregon:
“A classmate of my daughter checked the book out of the Taft High
library and gave it to her,’ said O’Donnell. “All her friends had been
talking about the book and when she brought it home she was kind of
O’Donnell described the book as “very graphic.”
“It is simply too graphic for a seventh grader and for my daughter,” said O’Donnell.
I have some amount of sympathy for the parent in this case, but it's rather unfair to expect a library that serves seventh graders through seniors would only stock items that she deems appropriate for seventh graders.
My re-read of The Chocolate War continues!
Previous installments are here and here.
Chapter Twelve: In which Jerry has his last perfect moment in a long, long time.
- Jerry's at football practice, and his frustration about—and this is my interpretation, as he hasn't actually articulated the feeling—being rudderless and acted UPON rather than being the ACTOR in his own life, as well as being dismissed as insignificant and a nonentity by all of the forces who use him continues: What infuriated Jerry was that Carter toppled him gently, lowering him to the ground almost tenderly as if to prove his superiority. I don't have to murder you, kid, it's easy enough this way, Carter seemed to be saying. Long-windedness cut short: FORESHADOWING.
- Then the next pay is successful, and Jerry has a moment of "absolute bliss"... but then he goes inside to change, he finds a letter from the Vigils taped to his locker.
Chapter Thirteen: The first day of the chocolate sale.
- The Room Nineteen prank isn't sitting well with The Goober. At first, he felt like a folk hero and he enjoyed the butt-patting popularity, but there are rumors that Brother Leon is carrying on an investigation and that Brother Eugene has had a nervous breakdown. Also, there's this: The room would never be the same again, of course. The furniture creaked weirdly, as if it would collapse again without warning. The various teachers who used the room were uneasy—you could tell they were apprehensive. Once in a while, some guy would drop a book just to see the teacher flinch or leap in panic. So. Things that are broken—like, completely, utterly destroyed—and then mended... are never quite the same again. UNSETTLING THOUGHT, INDEED. By which I mean: FORESHADOWING.
- And then Brother Leon does role call, and asks each boy if he will participate in the chocolate sale, and every boy in the room says yes... except Jerry. And, as you might expect, even though this sale is supposedly entirely voluntary, refusing does not go over well: "You may pick up your chocolates in the gym, gentlemen," Brother Leon said, his eyes bright—wet bright. "Those of you who are true sons of Trinity, that is. I pity anyone who is not." That terrible smile remained on his face. "Class dismissed," Leon called although the bell had not sounded.
Chapter Fourteen: Time passes. Boys sell chocolates.
- I love the structure of this chapter: Cormier shows the passage of time with brief vignettes of random students selling chocolates interspersed with scenes of the daily battle of wills between Brother Leon and Jerry in homeroom. His ability to create three-dimensional, believable characters with just a few paragraphs is lovely, as is his trust in his audience to be able to keep up with the rapid pace of the scene changes.
- Using The Goober as our window to those homeroom scenes is another great choice on Cormier's part: he's already been shown to be more sensitive to and aware of tension and conflict than many of the other students, so his view of the situation is especially perceptive.
- Meanwhile, the kid who was appointed Candy Treasurer is pretty sure that Brother Leon is cooking the books...
Chapter Fifteen: In which we find out what Archie is holding over Janza's head.
- And, in a word, is is nothing: he's just PRETENDING to have a photo of Janza masturbating in a school bathroom. I don't even. (If it'd been a different character, this situation never would have worked, but as Janza is, as Willow Rosenberg would say, ID BOY, it makes complete sense to me that he would wander into a bathroom and think, "Hmmm, broken lock, no real privacy, well, now's as good a time as any.")
- The Archie/Janza scenes are always interesting; Janza acts like he thinks he's Archie's equal, but clearly knows that he isn't—he craves acceptance, but would never ever admit it; Archie very definitely looks down on Janza, but respects the fact that his unpredictability and inherent brutality makes him dangerous.
- I just noticed, too, that Archie and Jerry are the only two characters who are regularly referred to by their first names. Oh, wait, Obie, too.
Chapter Sixteen: In which a random student has a devastating flash of insight.
- Brother Leon holds a bad grade over David Caroni's head to find out what the deal is with Jerry Renault: Were teachers like everyone else, then? Were teachers as corrupt as the villains you read about in books or saw in movies and television? He'd always worshipped his teachers, had though of becoming a teacher himself if he could overcome his shyness.
- Which, of course, makes me think of River Phoenix's monologue in Stand By Me about stealing the milk money. Like I said, devastating.
- Anyway, now Brother Leon knows that Jerry's Vigil assignment ends tomorrow, and that he will say 'yes', start selling chocolates, and all will be right with the world.
Chapter Seventeen: In which Jerry does the unthinkable.
Kelly: Guest Post: Why The Chocolate War Matters by Angie Manfredi
Liz: The Chocolate War Read A Long Part Three
When you find a best friend, you want to hold on to him! And anyway, life is sooo… much better with a friend – you can play together and swim together, swimming over and under and all around. Such is the life of two happy friends, Nugget a minnow, and Fang a shark, until Nugget goes off to school. Then, everything is different for Fang and Nugget. At school, Nugget learns lots of new things about the world and his place in it, including the unsettling fact that sharks EAT minnows!!! Nugget cannot believe this and tries to convince his schoolmates that his friend Fang could never hurt anyone.
Eventually though, Nugget does start to believe the rumors and reluctantly lets go of his friendship with Fang. Of course Fang is lost without his best friend and tries everything he can think of to win his friend back. Sadly though, nothing works, until a giant net captures Nugget and the other little fish, and Fang must come to their rescue. In the end, everyone lets go of their old ideas about their shark friend, and the ELEVEN friends live happily ever after, swimming over and under and all around. This book would make a good read-aloud, and there are some wonderful lessons to be learned as well. The illustrations are very colorful and appealing. Really fun!
Posted by: Mary
The annual celebration of the children’s books, Children’s Book Week is here. Sponsored by the Children’s Book Council and Every Child A Reader, includes events across the U.S., downloadable resources for kids and educators, and a Gala honoring the year’s Children’s and Teen Choice Book Award winners. This year, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Walter Dean Myers will present the Impact Award to author and journalist Michele Norris, whose work at National Public Radio is “creatively and significantly advancing our collective mission of instilling a lifelong love of reading in children.” From the CBC: “Ms. Norris conceived of NPR’s Backseat Book Club, a book club for children ages 9-14 that encourages them to read along with the monthly selection and to send their questions in to NPR. At month’s end, some of those questions are put to the book’s author during a segment on All Things Considered. Programs like this promote the joy of reading, a necessary element in instilling a lifelong love of reading in children.”
In honor of Children’s Book Week, we invite you to post your favorite new titles (within the past two years) from Black authors and illustrators in the comments below. At the end of the week, we will compile the list for your summer reading enjoyment.
The Brown Bookshelf Team
By: Carmela Martino and 5 other authors
Blog: Teaching Authors
(Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
, Hans Fischer
, Memorable Books
, April Halprin Wayland
, Poetry Friday
, picture books
, Add a tag
And Happy Children's Book Week
Jeanne Marie introduced our current topic
: In honor of Children’s Book Week, share the title of
the book we wish we still had or are sorry we loaned (and never got back) or
one we (god forbid) threw away.
Heavens to Betsy! The search for my cherished book turned into a detective story.
The first thing I did was to ask God...errr...Google for the title of the book about a surprise birthday party for an old woman named Lisette. Bello, her dog, directs the other animals while Lizette is at the market--he tells the goats to get apples, the ducks to get candles, etc. He and Lisette's two cats (Molly and...Ruly?) bake a bundt cake that burns on top, so they put powdered sugar on it at the last minute to hide the burned part.
But who was the marvelous author/illustrator and what was the name of the book????
In the course of my search, I found a site called Old Children's Books which has a page called "Looking for a Book?"
I searched and searched and searched...with binoculars, with a flashlight, with a light on my miner's helmet...
(me...but my search was not as grim as pictured)
Finally, I remembered that at the end of the book was a little kitten. And I remembered that the author/illustrator wrote another book about him. In fact, the cat's name was the title of the other book. So if I could just remember the name of the cat...it was...Pitchie!
But I couldn't find a book called Pitchie. Or Pitchy. Stumbling down the corridors of the internet, bumping into walls, I finally found the other book! It was called PITSCHI (published in 1948). I now knew the name of the author/illustrator: Hans Fischer. Which meant I was close to finding the book I was actually looking for!
But first, let's take a detour. Click here to enjoy Hans Fischer's fantastic lithographs in Pitschi "the kitten who always wanted to be something else. A sad story, but one which ends well."
All the same characters are in the book I have been looking for...and now I can plug in Hans' name and come up with THE BOOK--right?
Yes! On Worldcat.org I found it--The Birthday: a Merry Tale with Many Pictures (1954)! Worldcat summarizes the story:
"In a clearing in the forest lived old Lisette with her animals. On
her seventy-sixth birthday, Lisette went off to the village, and while
she was gone the animals prepared a wonderful birthday surprise for her."
This is the book from my childhood that still makes my heart sing.
With all the searching, I learned a few things about my good friend Hans
from Children's Books and Their Creators
, edited by Anita Silvey
. He was Swiss, he lived from 1909-1958 (only 49 years?). And he studied under the artist Paul Klee
who taught him how to use color. No wonder I fell in love with Fischer's style--I love Klee!
Klee said, "It is not my task to reproduce appearances...for that there is the photographic plate. I want to reach the heart."
And isn't that what we want from books we read...and those we create? (Actually, I wouldn't mind if large corporations took that as their company motto...)
Legendary editor Margaret McElderry discovered his work, bought the US rights to Pitschi, and went on to publish his other books, including The Birthday.
So here's my song to Hans Fischer and The Birthday.
poem & drawing © 2013 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved
What's the book you wish you still owned? Why not write a poem about it?
SEARCHING FOR A BOOK
by April Halprin Wayland
What's the title?
And the plot?
It was so tender…
Why is this your favorite book?
It lit a spark, it fanned an ember…
The book was in her skin, her cells,
she turned each page and oh! the smell…
At every page
I looked and listened,
the little kitten on a mission,
delicately, in pastel.
He was drawn and he was written
to cast a purring lifetime spell.
What's the title?
And the plot?
It was so tender…
Why is this your favorite book?
It lit a spark, it fanned an ember…
Remember that our blogiversary contest runs through May 19th--there's still time to be a winner!
See Carmela's post
for all the details.
by April Halprin Wayland, who is grateful that you've read to the end ~
Just tuning in with a few links on a lazy Monday--lazy because we're in Hawaii, at our friends' house on the Big Island, enjoying a much-needed vacation. Sadly, I did bring some work with me, but only a minimum of such, which, for me, is pretty... Read the rest of this post
While there are loads and loads of Hollywood-themed YA books—most recently, I especially enjoyed Rachel Shukert's Starstruck—I'm going to point you back to Cecil Castellucci's first book, Boy Proof.
Which, many years and many books later, is still my favorite Castellucci.
It's about Victoria—call her Egg—the daughter of a has-been actress and a Oscar-winning special effects artist:
She is extremely bright, and likes people to be aware of that fact. She likes routine and she likes to be in control. She likes to be seen as a loner. Although she's a photographer for the school newspaper and is a member of the sci-fi club, she avoids much interaction with her fellow students. She isn't (that) rude—she will talk to them if asked a direct question, but she doesn't generally initiate conversation. She's comfortable with the way things are.
I fell for this book immediately. Ron Koertge called it "compulsively readable", and I agree. I read half of it last night, then tossed and turned for ages before I finally gave up on sleep and got up to finish it.
Other favorite Hollywood books?
Today's deal: What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know, the sequel to What My Mother Doesn't Know, is a mere 99¢!
It's been ages since I've picked either of them up, and NOW I'M ALL TEMPTED.
Damn your eyes, Amazon.
WHY DO YOU WANT ME TO BE SO POOR??
Because, you know, I TOTALLY NEED YET ANOTHER SHOW TO GET HOOKED ON:
In the Ford household, we've celebrated three birthdays, one First Communion, and Mother's Day (happy, happy!) all within the last month. Heaven forbid we should rest on our laurels, so let's keep the party going with Children's Book Week
In our next series of posts, the Teaching Authors are planning to share titles of beloved childhood books that have sadly been lost to the ages (loaned, tossed, or otherwise lost). This is a timely topic for me, as my newly minted eight-year-old asked me last week for new reading suggestions. We trekked together to the attic, where my childhood books are stored. As an Army brat with at least 25 moves under my belt, I possess very few relics of my childhood -- toys, treasures, clothes, memorabilia. But books, I was smart enough to schlep and save.
I've got Charlie Brown's Super Book of Questions and Answers
and the complete Bobbsey Twins (which, alas, I do not feel I can share with my daughter today, what with Dinah and Sam and Flossie, her father's "little fat fairy" (goodness!)). However,I pulled together a pile of about 12 books, old and new, that I think she will love. I also did a quick and painful assessment of what I thought I had that I do not:
The Moffatts series by Eleanor Estes
Figgs and Phantoms
and The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues
by Ellen Raskin
Most of the All-of-A-Kind family series
Anything by E.B. White (!)
And, for when my daughter is older:
Waiting for Johnny Miracle
by Alice Bach
A House Like a Lotus
by Madeleine L'Engle
I am thankful that old and/or out-of-print books are now typically available on the Internet, though I suspect some of these will be hard to find. I plan to get these books into my daughter's hands or die trying.
Happy Children's Book Week (and month and year) to all! And if you haven't already done so, it's not too late to enter our Blogiversary Contest
to win one of four gift certificates to Anderson's Bookstore. Happy Book Buying to All! --Jeanne Marie
Rgz SALON member Lyn Miller-Lachmann has been the Editor-in-Chief of MultiCultural Review; the author of the award-winning multicultural bibliography Our Family, Our Friends, Our World; the editor of Once Upon a Cuento, a collection of short stories by Latino authors; and the author of Gringolandia, a young adult novel about a refugee family living with the aftermath of the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile. Her most recent novel, Rogue--a spring/summer Junior Library Guild selection for middle school--is out this month!
We're honored to have Lyn here as part of the rgz SALON, a feature where top kidlit experts clue us in to the best YA novels they've read recently. Today, she discusses The Language Inside by Holly Thompson:
Emma Karas is a 'third culture kid.' Her parents grew up in the United States, but she calls Japan home even though she is not ethnically Japanese. When her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer and decides to return to the U.S. for treatment, Emma is uprooted from her Japanese friends and her efforts to help survivors of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and dropped into a world that she doesn’t understand. The stress causes her to suffer severe and frightening migraines. To take her mind off her mother’s health, her parents’ separation due to work, and her loneliness, she volunteers at a nursing home near her grandmother’s house in Massachusetts. There, she meets Samnang, a volunteer of Cambodian heritage with a troubled past, and Zena, a middle-aged poet with 'locked-in' syndrome. As she becomes comfortable in her new surroundings, she feels guilty that she is not helping her friends in Japan as they rebuild from the tsunami. Ultimately, this thoughtful, good-hearted teenager finds herself torn and having to make choices that weigh her own needs and the needs of others.
"Thompson is a poet and novelist from the U.S. who lives in Japan, Her second novel in verse is a strong follow-up to the acclaimed Orchards,
which mostly takes place in her adopted home.
The elegant and heartfelt poetry in The Language Inside
allows the reader to explore Emma’s internal transformation as she navigates different cultures and the people in her life. Emma writes, 'it’s not just losing / Japanese words / and phrases / it’s as if I’ve lost / half of myself here / but no one knows / because I’m a white girl'
There is very little dialogue, but through Emma’s eyes we see other characters clearly and Emma’s changing relationships with them. The most original aspect of this powerful and compelling story is Emma’s interaction with Zena via poetry, as we see the growing friendship between two people who, in distinct ways, understand that 'lonely is when the language outside / isn’t the language inside
...have been announced, and I'm sure it comes as no surprise to ANYONE that the Teen Book of the Year prize went to The Fault in our Stars, by John Green.
See the rest of the finalists here and the rest of the winners here.
Spoilers about Belles are a necessity!
After long-lost cousins Isabelle Scott (from the Wrong Side of the Tracks, basically the North Carolina version of Chino) and Mirabelle Monroe (from Emerald Cove, basically the North Carolina version of the O.C.) found out that they were ACTUALLY SISTERS, life for both of them changed YET AGAIN.
Only actually not that much. Yes, they have to do a bunch of press stuff so as to save their father's political career, but mostly it's just more of the same: dealing with mean girls at school and trying to save Izzy's beloved community center and misunderstandings and boy troubles and so on.
And never fear, O.C. fans, this installment continues to channel the show: WINTER WHITE IS (in part) ABOUT COTILLION.
The only thing missing is Tate Donovan getting punched in the face.
Be ready for some clunky exposition—Cotillion! How could Mira have forgotten about her favorite tradition in Emerald Cove? Making her formal debut into society was something she had dreamed about since she was in pre-K. She'd spent the last three years preparing for the sophomore girl tradition—taking etiquette classes, going to Saturday morning dance lessons, and doing approved Junior League charity work—and somehow she had let all this drama with her dad make her completely forget the most important event of the year!—but wait, there's more!—Cotillion pledging. Rush. Debutante initiation. Whatever you wanted to call it, Mira had forgotten about this secret tradition, too.—and then the narrator goes on to explain it all in detail, but I'm sure you get the point, so I'll spare you.
And I was disappointed that Calonita [SPOILER] apparently fed the same exact criteria into the Random Villain Generator, because JEEZ LOUISE, AN UP-AND-COMING POLITICAL FAMILY JUST CAN'T GET RELIABLE HELP THESE DAYS. [/SPOILER]
Perfect? No. Literary pyrotechnics? Double no.
But I love how Izzy and Mira have become a team—much like Seth Cohen and Ryan Atwood, of course—and if you go in for this sort of thing (as I do), as long as you're prepared to overlook some rough spots, it's fun stuff. I'll be reading book three soon-ish.
Book source: ILLed through my library.
In Animal Helpers: Sanctuaries you meet Lisa the pig, a 700 pound loveable animal that just got too big to stay with her owners. Sanctuary One’s newest resident pig Jigsaw is just as loveable and very smart. Just watch how well mannered this pig is:
Sanctuary One provides the community with a place to connect with nature and meet animals that children or adults may not have the opportunity to meet otherwise. They are very passionate and we hope you enjoy the video, and meeting them in the book Animal Helpers: Sanctuaries.
The Animal Helpers series by Jennifer Keats Cutis is a great way to introduce children to the challenges and rewards that a career helping animals entails. Each book in the series features work of special organizations and caretakers like Sanctuary One. These organizations are able to use the book as a fundraiser; it is expensive, and requires a lot of work to care for a farm of formerly homeless animals.
We at Sylvan Dell are happy to feature the great work of not only Sanctuary One, but also the other Animal Helpers. If you, or your children are interested in caring for animals there are organizations all across the country that need support and volunteers!
As of November 20, 2012 (that is, Midnight Eastern Time tonight) I am closed to queries. I will reopen to queries January 7, 2013.
If I already have your work, you should hear from me by January 7. (That's the point of taking the break, I have to catch up!)
I'm sorry to say that I cannot respond to new queries sent during this time.
The exceptions will be: work that I've requested -- conference material -- client or editor referrals -- and people I actually know in real life. If this is you, please be sure you've said so, along with the word Query, IN THE SUBJECT LINE of your email. Otherwise, your query will be deleted.
For all other regular queries, please feel free to try any of my colleagues at Andrea Brown Lit, or else try me again in January.
Thanks again for thinking of me in regard to your work.
Wishing you all the best, and Happy Holidays,
Andrea Brown Literary Agency
Continuing my chapter-by-chapter recap of Robert Cormier's The Chocolate War! If you need to catch up, the first installment is here.
Chapter Six: In which Brother Leon practically BEGS for someone to sue the school.
- So, Brother Leon basically treats his classroom of boys as a captive audience... for psychological torment. WHEEE!!! Seriously, the guy is a sadist. He pulls a student up in front of the class, accuses him of cheating, "accidentally" slashes him in the face with his pointer—"Bailey, I'm sorry," Leon said, but his voice lacked apology. Had it been an accident? Or another of Leon's little cruelties?—gets the whole classroom to laugh at this poor boy who's done committed no crime but get good grades...
- ...and then, after one brave(ish) unidentified soul in the back of the room says, "Aw, leave the kid alone," Leon tells that the classroom of boys are no better than Nazis for not speaking up sooner.
- He claims that it's a lesson—and maybe it was, sort of—but despite his praise of Bailey at the end of the "exercise", it's clear that he enjoyed frightening and shaming Bailey, a complete innocent.
Chapter Seven: Introducing Emile Janza
- Archie's a sociopath and Brother Leon is just a twisted, hateful, bitter old bastard, but Emile Janza is a psychopath. Archie enjoys messing with people in a clinical, detached way, whereas Janza gets off on it. Literally: And if you told anybody, it would be hard to explain. Like how he sometimes felt actually horny when he roughhoused a kid or tackled a guy viciously in football and gave him an extra jab when he had him on the ground. So, yeah: he's a real peach.
Chapter Eight: The Goober completes his assignment
- I love The Goober. I love that he's described as being gawky and awkward at rest, but as a thing of beauty in motion. I love that Cormier conveys perfectly, in just a couple of pages, that while Goubert has the body of a young man, that he's still a boy: it's a good reminder of how young most of these characters really are.
- Anyway, he's in the classroom, loosening screws, and he's been there for six hours and it's dark and he's terrified that he won't ever finish... when a few masked guys show up and help him finish. Not because they feel sorry for him, but because "the assignment is more important than anything else". Three hours later, the job is done.
Chapter Nine: Jerry's home life.
- When Jerry's mother was dying, he was scared: scared of seeing her waste away, scared of his own grief. He saw his father's stoicism as strength. After she died, their respective routines—his father's job at the pharmacy and Jerry's classes and football practices—saved them...
- ...but now Jerry's starting to consider a whole life of routine, and it palls: He hated to think of his own life stretching ahead of him that way, a long succession of days and nights that were fine, fine—not good, not bad, not great, not lousy, not exciting, not anything. I'd forgotten how much more there is to this book beyond the stuff with the chocolates.
- So, that bit where Jerry sees his mother's face superimposed over his father's face? I know I SHOULD have found that emotionally moving or something, but really all it made me think of was that time on Twin Peaks where Mrs. Palmer is talking to Stupid Donna Hayward and she has a vision of Laura's face and then she does what she does best and freaks out.
Chapter Ten: The chocolate sale is officially announced.
- Now that I have Twin Peaks on the brain, this book suddenly has a Lynchian vibe. Especially this: The student body watched with glee as Leon's stooges tried to scotch-tape the posters to the wall at the rear of the stage. The posters kept slipping to the floor, resisting the tape. The walls were made of concrete blocks, and tacks couldn't be used, of course. Hoots filled the air.
- HOOTS, EVEN.
- Now I'm thinking that, since the movie is pretty much universally reviled—at least in terms of being NOT REMOTELY TRUE TO THE BOOK—that David Lynch should remake it. Holy cow, it would be brutal.
- Anyway, back to the actual book: Archie muses on about how he'll pick a few guys to sell his chocolates for him—AS IF he'd lower himself to sell any—and pats himself on the back for being such a Good Guy.
Chapter Eleven: Room Nineteen
- It takes thirty-seven seconds for everything in the room to collapse—including the chalkboard—and Cormier's description of the pandemonium is AMAZING. (Have I convinced you to read this book yet, or what? Because, MAN. I do love it.)
- The perfection of the moment—well, from Archie's perspective, as poor Brother Eugene's view of things is entirely different—is ruined by Brother Leon, who rips into him in front of everyone and accuses him of orchestrating the chaos. Which, of course, he did. OBVIOUSLY. But that doesn't stop him from being completely furious: He turned and saw some guys staring at Leon and him. Staring at him! Archie Costello humiliated by this snivelling bastard of a teacher. His sweet moment of triumph spoiled by this nut and his ridiculous chocolate sale!
- So, what do you think? Archie Costello's fatal flaw... could it possibly be related to HIS EGO?
Kelly: The Chocolate War: A Cover Retrospective, English Editions.
Liz: The Chocolate War: Read A Long Part 2.
However! It'll be a bit different this year:
MotherReader has decided to take a well-deserved break from hosting duties, so Ms. Yingling and Abby the Librarian have waded into the fray and TAKEN CHARGE.
Regardless! Start organizing your TBR pile, because June 7th will be here BEFORE YOU KNOW IT.
I'd better remind Joshua that he'll need to find something to do that weekend that DOESN'T involve standing in front of me and chanting, "PAY ATTENTION TO ME, PAY ATTENTION TO ME, PAY ATTENTION TO MEEEEEEEEEE!"
Huh. In retrospect, I realize that I should have hidden The 5th Wave from him until that weekend: then he could have participated, too! (He's LOVING it, by the way. Judging purely by his reaction to it—he's been going to bed EARLY every night so he can start reading SOONER—I'm really looking forward to my turn with it.)
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As you've probably already learned from Kelly and Liz, the three of us are giving Robert Cormier's The Chocolate War a close look this week. If you've read it, I'm guessing that even if you're hazy on the details of the plotting and the characters and the structure, you can still tap into your emotional reaction to it. It's been well over ten years since I read it last, and I know I can.
It blew my mind when I read it as a teenager, it blew my mind when I read it in my 20s, and I fully expect it to blow my mind again now. It's a brutal story—emotionally, philosophically, physically—and Cormier doesn't pull any punches or offer any platitudes. Life isn't fair, bad things happen to those who don't deserve it, justice isn't always served, and people can be broken.
And yet, despite where the story leaves him, there's something inspiring in Jerry Renault's attempt to matter, to find meaning, to disturb the universe. If you're interested in YA, and you haven't read it, you really ought to—Cormier is a cornerstone, and without him, we wouldn't have authors like Chris Crutcher or Chris Lynch—and if you have read it, but it was years and years ago, I'd say that this would be the perfect time to pick it up again.
So, without further ado, here I go, back into The Chocolate War.
- First line: "They murdered him." In this scene, it's in the context of football, but of course, it's also some HEAVY DUTY MEGAZORD FORESHADOWING. Um, spoiler, I guess? Oh, wait, it originally came out in 1974. A twenty-year statute of limitations on spoilers is more than fair, I think. Jerry's response to getting nailed again and again in practice—to get up and keep going, almost despite himself, like his force of will is stronger than his logic—is, of course, also HEAVY DUTY MEGAZORD FORESHADOWING.
- Cormier's description is killer: "A telephone rang in his ears. Hello, hello, I'm still here. When he moved his lips, he tasted the acid of dirt and grass and gravel. He was aware of the other players around him, helmeted and grotesque, creatures from an unknown world. He had never felt so lonely in his life, abandoned, defenseless."
- In less than four pages, we get a strong impression of Jerry's personality and state of mind, a bit about his mother's recent death and a bit about what he's searching for without really being aware that he's searching. And Cormier does it all without overt exposition.
- Also, there's the first of many references to masturbation—because, HELLO, high school freshman—which is one of the various reasons that this book still gets challenged again and again.
- And now we shift to Obie, the mixed-feelings-having right-hand man of the school's resident sociopath, Archie. Archie is smart and charismatic and controlling and devious, and while sometimes I wholeheartedly appreciate characters like that, he's one who makes my skin crawl.
- Archie's coming up with assignments for The Vigils, and while they aren't overtly explained—the assignments or The Vigils, another example of Cormier's avoidance of the infodump—it's pretty clear that The Vigils is some sort of underground student gang, and that whoever the assignees are, well, they've probably got some ugly days ahead of them.
- Jerry Renault is the last boy that Archie puts on his list—along with the word chocolates—and he includes him in good part because of his mother's recent death. Which kind of says it all about Archie.
- What else? Ah. The setting: a Catholic school is called Trinity.
- Challenge fodder: Lord's name in vain, etc., etc.
- Three days later, Jerry gets accosted by a jerk of a hippie—They really say man, Jerry thought. He didn't think anyone said man anymore except as a joke. But this guy wasn't joking.—and even though he's fully aware that the hippie is a jerk, what the hippie says—that Jerry is sleepwalking through life, just going through the motions rather than actually living—resonates.
- This bit really got me, just because it's such a perfect encapsulation of where Jerry's at:
Why? someone had scrawled in a blank space no advertiser had rented.
Why not? someone else had slashed in answer.
Jerry closed his eyes, exhausted suddenly, and it seemed like too much of an effort even to think.
- Back to Archie, who has just had a major realization: "Archie became absolutely still, afraid that the rapid beating of his heart might betray his sudden knowledge, the proof of what he'd always suspected, not only of Brother Leon but most grownups, most adults: they were vulnerable, running scared, open to invasion."
- While I'm on the subject of Brother Leon: what a bastard. On the surface, he's just as horrible as Archie, but I think he's even worse because A) he's an adult, and B) while Archie does what he does because it's in his nature, Brother Leon does what he does because he's nasty and grasping and hateful and mean. I have such incredibly strong negative feelings about him that Archie almost looks good by comparison. ALMOST.
- Long story short: while the Head is in the hospital, Brother Leon will be the interim head of Trinity. The annual chocolate sale is coming up, and he bought a ton of cut-rate boxes—twenty thousand of them instead of the usual ten—in the hopes of making double the money twice over. Brother Leon wants the Vigils to ensure that the sale is successful, but he can't come out and say anything about them, because obviously the school can't acknowledge their existence. Some cat-and-mousing goes on—the balance of power tips back-and-forth a couple of times—and it's a wonderfully tense scene.
- Enter the Goober: Despite his height, he was easily six-one, he reminded Archie of a child, someone who didn't belong here, as if he'd been caught sneaking into an Adults Only movie. He was too skinny, of course. And he had the look of a loser. Vigil bait.
- As the Assigner, Archie isn't technically the head of the Vigils—the President is Carter, a bruiser of a football player—but everyone (including Carter) knows that the Assigner is the true leader and the President is merely an enforcer.
- Goober gets his assignment: he has to go to Brother Eugene's homeroom and loosen every single screw in the room. Every desk, every chair, the blackboard, everything. On the surface, that doesn't sound so bad—it'll take a long time, and it'll be a lot of work, but beyond that it seems tame—but as I know where the story goes, reading this chapter made me feel ill.
- LOVE THIS. The Vigils have a fail-safe to keep the Assigner from going too bananas with his assignments: every time he gives one, there is a 1 in 6 chance that he'll have to carry it out, rather than his intended victim.
Kelly: First Impressions
Liz: The Chocolate War: Read A Long Part 1