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1. The Silmarillion (1977)

The Silmarillion. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1977. 386 pages. [Source: Bought]
 There was Eru, the One, who in Arda is called Ilúvatar; and he made first the Ainur, the Holy Ones, that were the offspring of his thought, and they were with him before aught else was made. And he spoke to them, propounding to them themes of music; and they sang before him, and he was glad. But for a long while they sang only each alone, or but few together, while the rest hearkened; for each comprehended only that part of the mind of Ilúvatar from which he came, and in the understanding of their brethren they grew but slowly. Yet ever as they listened they came to deeper understanding, and increased in unison and harmony. And it came to pass that Ilúvatar called together all the Ainur and declared to them a mighty theme, unfolding to them things greater and more wonderful than he had yet revealed; and the glory of its beginning and the splendour of its end amazed the Ainur, so that they bowed before Ilúvatar and were silent.
I loved reading J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion. That doesn't mean I found it easy the first time I attempted it. Or even the second. I do think you have to be in the proper mood to fully enjoy it--to appreciate it. There is a beauty to it, a certain grace to the language. Something that you don't see all that often. Something that brings to my mind--at least--the beauty and grace of the Authorized Version of the Bible (KJV). But with that beauty and grace there is a certain strangeness, a foreignness. Something that puts distance between the book and the reader. It's all about the world-building.

The Silmarillion is divided into several sections:
Each section is unique, has its own style or tone. The longest section is Quenta Silmarillion. The section probably with the most reader appeal is Of The Rings of Power and the Third Age.

So is The Silmarillion similar to his other works? Yes and no. There are orcs, dwarves, elves, eagles, dragons, balrogs, wolves, giant spiders, humans, and wizards. And certainly much of The Silmarillion concerns the battle between good and evil. The two main "bad guys" are Melkor (Morgoth) and Sauron. And the book is about greed, ambition, honor, love, and friendship. There's plenty of action, and even some romance. The book features origin or creation stories. So there's a good chance that you can learn more background for putting The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit into context. But it does require some patience perhaps. For example, people rarely have one name--they may have up to a dozen! Turin Turambar comes to mind. I wish I'd known about the family trees at the end of the book while I was actually reading it!

Yes, The Silmarillion is beautifully written. But that isn't its only strength. The world-building is incredibly detailed. Its also packed with stories and interesting characters.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2. Loads of Headbutting Before Breakfast

“This is my rock.”
(Click to enlarge slightly)


British author and illustrator David Lucas has a new book out, This Is My Rock (Flying Eye, May 2015), and I’ve got some art from it today. I always like to check out Lucas’ books, and this one has a poignant back story to its dedication.

This is a story of power and ultimately, friendship, as a domineering goat atop a mountain claims it for himself but in the end discovers his own loneliness. It invites, as the Kirkus review notes, “a broader consideration of the ins and outs of ownership than the usual toy-oriented run of ‘sharing’ titles.” Lucas’ geometric designs and angular speech bubbles give the book a distinctive look. Keep your eye on the sky here to note his shooting stars and zooming clouds and rising suns (note the one on the first spread, featured above). These are visually pleasing spreads, ones evoking the Southwest in color palette and border design (though it’s never specifically noted where the story takes place).

Here’s some more art from the book. Enjoy!

“Not your rock.”
(Click to enlarge slightly)


“This my rock. Not your rock.”
(Click to enlarge slightly)


“This my rock. Not your rock.”
(Click to enlarge slightly)


* * * * * * *

THIS IS MY ROCK. Copyright © 2015 by David Lucas. Published by Flying Eye Books, London. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher.

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3. The story of DC’s library moving coast to coast


With DC Entertainment not ensconced safely in the petri dish of the Burbank studio world, THR’s Borys Kit delivers the Story of the Move with two videos of the DC library then and now. Trigger warning: images of Steve Korte holding a whip.

The move west didn’t merely uproot the staff; it also meant a cross-country trip for DC’s celebrated library on Broadway, which was stored in a vault and included nearly every comic the company has published as well as a collection of licensed merchandise and oddities. (Collectively, DC’s copies of the first appearances of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are worth more than $2 million.)

Special movers, working with Warner Bros. Archives, packed nearly 100,000 comics and 8,000 hardcover books into 600 boxes, and a security team escorted them to a giant truck in mid-March. DC executives tracked the vehicle via GPS, and another security team oversaw the collection’s unloading. “It was like medevacking the heart from New York to Burbank,” says Nelson.

The front office certainly looks nice. I still feel a stab when I go up to the Carnegie Hall area, but sometimes puling stakes and moving is what it takes:

Overall, the move went as smoothly as possible, with no major damage to the collection reported. Nelson, whose office door boasts a transparent Wonder Woman image, says the new environment has affected employees and their work: “There’s a happiness that comes with being so close to the studio — seeing people they haven’t seen on a regular basis — and being in a creative space that feels like a comic company.”

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4. हमारी मानसिकता


हमारी मानसिकता lady photo

हमारी मानसिकता-  कुछ देर पहले मैं अपनी सहेली मणि से मिलने गई. उससे मिलने कोई आई हुई थी. मुझे देखते ही उठने को हुई और बोली … ठीक है मैं शाम को आ जाऊंगी… और स्माईल देती हुई चली गई. उसके जाने के बाद मणि ने बताया कि ये महिला उनकी जानकार है और वो टी सैट  और दो चार चीजें मांगने आई थी कल के लिए चाहिए. असल में,  उनकी लडकी को लडके वाले देखने आ रहे हैं .. सामान अच्छा हो तो जरा रौब अच्छा पडता है.

मै सोचने लगी कि हमारी मानसिकता आज भी जस की तस है. लडकी पसंद करनी है या टीसैट पसंद करना है.   दिखावे के पीछे पागल से हुए पडे हैं. अपनी चादर बिना देखे दूसरों की चादर देख कर पांव पसराते हैं और अंत क्या होता है हम सभी जानते हैं  अब तो अखबार के सुर्खियां भी नही बनती कि दहेज के कारण मौत हुई.

फलां की शादी में 5 करोड लगे डिमकाना की शादी मॆं बारह करोड लगे. अरे छोडों हमें क्या लेना… बस जरुरत इस बात की है पहले दिन से ही कोई दिखावा न हो और सारी बात साफ और स्पष्ट हो ताकि सब कुशल मंगल रहे.

शादियों में बहुत खर्चा बेवजह होता है इस पर रोक लगा कर बच्चों के नाम ऎफ.डी करवा देंगें तो बहुत अच्छा होगा. बाकि हम चाहे 5 लाख दे या पांच करोड लोगों ने तो बोलना ही बोलना है … फिर किस के लिए दिखावा और क्यों ???

बहुत बडा प्रश्नवाचक है ????



story on marriage

फेरे हो रहे थे। दूल्हे मियां शराब में टुन्‍न थे। इतने कि वे लड़खड़ा रहे थे। आधे फेरे होते न होते टपकने को हुए कि दुल्हन ने शादी से ही इंकार कर दिया। ठीक भी है, ‘जब तक पूरे न हो फेरे सात, दुल्हन नहीं दुलहा की।’ इसी तरह एक शादी में दूल्हे के पिए हुए दोस्त दुल्हन पक्ष की महिलाओं के साथ बेहूदा मजाक कर रहे थे। जब उनकी मजाक अश्लीलता की हद तक पहुंच गई फिर भी दूल्हे ने हस्तक्षेप नहीं किया, अपने दोस्तों को मना नहीं किया तो इस दुल्हन ने भी बीच फेरे के डोर काट दी।

उल्लेखनीय बात यह है कि यह गुना जिले के बिजानीपुरा गांव की आदिवासी लड़की है। इसी तरह एक दूल्हे ने अपनी शिक्षा के बारे में झूठ बोला था। शादी के समय एक मौके पर साध्ाारण से गणित में वह ऐसा गड़बड़ाया कि उसकी पोल खुल गई और दुल्हन ने शादी से इंकार कर दिया। फेरे पर बैठकर दहेज में वस्तुओं की मांग करने वाले दूल्हों को दुल्हन द्वारा लौटाने की घटनाए भी पिछले कुछ सालों में हुई हैं।

सवाल यह है कि दूल्हे शादी के मंडप में बैठकर ही दहेज की मांग क्यों करते आए हैं? वजह यह कि अब तक लड़कियों के घरवाले इस बात से डरते आए हैं कि बारात लौट गई तो लड़की ‘लग्नभ्रष्ट’ हो जाएगी, फिर उससे शादी कौन करेगा? दूल्हे, दूल्हे के घरवालों और बारातियों का अहंकार तो हमारे समाज में ऐसा रहा है कि किसी बाराती की कोई मांग पूरी न हो या तथाकथित रूप से अपमान हो जाए तो दुल्हन को रोता छोड़ बारातें लौट जाती रही हैं।

दूल्हे के पांवों में दुल्हन के पिता द्वारा अपनी टोपी या पगड़ी रख देना, कर्ज लेकर वरपक्ष की मनचाही सामग्री जुटाना, दूल्हे के घर वालों की मिन्नातें करना कि कहीं बारात न लौट जाए, यह लड़की के बाप की नियति रही है। क्योंकि पहले लग्नभ्रष्ट हो जाने पर दुल्हन की कहीं शादी नहीं होती थी और दूल्हे को तो फिर कोई रिश्ता मिल जाता था। समाज की मानसिकता ऐसी थी कि कलंक सिर्फ दुल्हन को ही लगता था। बगैर पढ़ी-लिखी, परनिर्भर लड़कियों के हाथ में था भी क्या? लेकिन अब जमाने ने करवट ली है।

लड़कियां अब करारा जवाब देती हैं तो समाज में भी ऐसे बहुत से लोग निकल आते हैं जो लड़कियों को उद्दण्ड या लाजरहित बताने के बजाए उनके साहस की प्रशंसा करते हैं। मीडिया में भी ऐसे साहस की चर्चा होती है। अधिक से अधिक लड़कियां भी अब अपने पैरों पर खड़ी हो रही हैं।

ग्रामीण इलाकों तक ये जाग्रति पहुंची है कि जिस ससुराल में टॉयलेट न हो वहां जाने से दुल्हन इंकार कर दे। और एक दुल्हन इंकार करे तो उसकी खबर प्रेरणा बनकर अन्य युवतियों तक पहुंचे और एक सिलसिला बन जाए। ऐसा सकारात्मक साहस अधिक से अधिक युवतियों में होना चाहिए कि वे गलत बात बर्दाश्त न करें और समाज को उनका साथ देना चाहिए। See more…

हमारी मानसिकता

The post हमारी मानसिकता appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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5. Rick Remender Leaves Marvel to Focus on Creator Owned Work

rickremenderLast night, Rick Remender announced his intentions to “take a break” from his work with Marvel comics.  The writer, known for his tenures on Uncanny X-ForcePunisher, and Captain America, says that he owes Marvel a great debt for enabling him to “provide for [his] family as it grew” and for taking a chance on him when he quit his first job as a successful animator to pursue his career in comics.

Before Remender worked with Marvel, he put out several books with Image, the most notable of which is Fear Agent with Tony Moore.  Creator-owned work has always been Remender’s greatest passion, though when he started out the market “didn’t seem to want such things.”  Recently, however, things have changed.  Remender currently writes a number of my favorite Image titles including Black Science; Deadly Class; and most recently, Low.  This work has become increasingly time consuming, and so:

For the next year, I’m only going to do work that the artists and I own.  Putting my ass on the line along with my partners, and try for the dream one more time.  To get back to doing what feeds my soul.  To be around for my family during some trying times and spend my work hours making comics with the people I want to, the exact way we want to make them, and owning and controlling the fruits of our labor.

Remender’s announcement comes on the heels of a number of creative shakeups for Marvel’s “All-New All-Different” line up.  Yesterday, Marvel announced that Jeff Lemire would take the reigns on the new Uncanny X-Men series.  Jonathan Hickman has previously stated that he would also be taking a vacation from the House of M following the end of Secret Wars.

Things are moving at a breakneck pace in the lead up to SDCC.  It’s hard to imagine how Marvel will top themselves at the convention.

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6. Just realised...

Hope this heatwave is not too much for you. At the moment we are warmer in the south of England than the Mediterranean.  Almost as fierce a the present heat in Atlanta, but without the air conditioning. Reminds me of my years in Africa working in the bank, had no air conditioning in those days, either.

After having deciding to post to a  page on on my website, instead of on this blog, (to prevent posting twice, haven't yet learned how to send items to both sites, the Wordpress  was set up and coded by my Grandson and my coding is at kindergarten level), I suddenly remembered that I am involved in a blog tour, helping to advertise a book, and therefore need Blogspot to give maximum exposure to the event...

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7. Coloring Page Tuesday - Happy Independence Day!

     Happy Independence Day! The 4th of July is Saturday and I have to say, I am feeling especially proud to be an American this week!! Hope is in the air as is love! Here are two teddies to help you celebrate.
     CLICK HERE for more patriotic coloring pages!
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...
my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET - winner of six literary awards. Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

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8. Alive by Chandler Baker // Heart-Pounding Excitement

Reviewed by Rachel  Alive by Chandler Baker Age Range: 12 - 18 years Grade Level: 7 - 12 Hardcover: 368 pages Publisher: Disney-Hyperion (June 9, 2015) Goodreads | Amazon Stella Cross's heart is poisoned. After years on the transplant waiting list, she's running out of hope that she'll ever see her eighteenth birthday. Then, miraculously, Stella receives the transplant she needs to survive.

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9. Funding Increased for New York City’s 3 Library Systems

readeverywhereFor the past few months, the three library systems of New York City (the New York Public Library, the Queens Library, and the Brooklyn Public Library) have been pushing Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Council for an increase in funding. The campaign has proved successful; a $43 million increase has been approved for the Fiscal Year 2016.

More than 150,000 New York library patrons sent in letters to support this cause. Several authors and celebrities also joined in this fight including Newbery Medal winner Neil Gaiman, In the Unlikely Event novelist Judy Blume, Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Díaz, ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, Oscar-nominated actor Ethan Hawke, and Grammy-winning musician John Legend.

According to the press release, this budget increase “will allow for citywide six-day branch service, as well as an increase in hours and programming seats, more expert library staff, and more. The budget — adopted today — also includes a capital allocation of at least $300 million to libraries over 10 years, which will go towards improving, renovating, modernizing, and repairing library facilities across the city. This is the first time libraries have received such a large, long-term investment, allowing them to adequately plan for the future.”

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10. Profile of 2015 CSK Author winner Jacqueline Woodson

Photo: Marty Umans

Photo: Marty Umans

One of the greatest joys of my career has been seeing Brown Girl Dreaming come to life and reverberate as it has been handed from reader to reader.

I have been lucky enough to work with Jacqueline Woodson for almost twenty years. She was the very first author I signed up when I became the publisher of G. P. Putnam’s Sons. Her lyrical writing sang to me. Her voice was so strong and clear and evocative. I also loved her spare style, how she could make magic happen with an economy of words. Since then I’ve edited six of her amazing picture books; Brown Girl Dreaming is the tenth novel we’ve worked on together.

I never know what I am going to get next from Jacqueline, and I am always happily surprised. The muse strikes her, and then she sends her stories to me at various stages in the creative process. Some of the picture books, such as Show Way and Each Kindness, were practically perfect and complete when I received them. The main challenge for those titles was finding the right illustrator. The early drafts of the novels usually come in with much of the story in place, but lots of holes to fill in. So I start by asking questions. I love every character and always want to know more. With Brown Girl Dreaming — a memoir in verse — boy, did I want to know more about a character I loved!

When I received the first draft of Brown Girl Dreaming in 2012, I knew I was holding something special in my hands. Many of the poems from the first section were already there, including the opening one, which begins:

I am born on a Tuesday at University
Columbus, Ohio,
a country caught

between Black and White.

Right from the beginning, we know we are going to get a story that is deeply personal but also one that tells of a shared history—the racial divide that is part of America—and readers will experience it from the eyes of a child who has lived in the North and the South. And because of the book’s title, we know we are in the hands of a dreamer, a young girl who has hope and aspirations. She is an observant student of the world around her. I love how she contemplates who she might become in the future by her admiration of those who have come before her:

I do not know if these hands will become
Malcolm’s—raised and fisted
or Martin’s—open and asking
or James’s—curled around a pen.

Through Jacqueline’s eyes we see, and then feel, the terrible injustice that a dignified black woman, her beloved grandmother, had to live through on a daily basis:

We walk straight past Woolworth’s
without even looking in the windows
because the one time my grandmother
went inside
they made her wait and wait. Acted like
I wasn’t even there. It’s hard not to see the
my grandmother in her Sunday clothes,
a hat
with a flower pinned to it
neatly on her head, her patent-leather
perfectly clasped
between her gloved hands—waiting
long past her turn.

As we witness her grandmother’s ordeal, our hearts are broken by something we cannot fix. But we gain such insight into how families like Jacqueline’s figured out ways to fight back, ways to bring about the change the world so desperately needed:

This is the way brown people have to fight,
my grandfather says.
You can’t just put your fist up. You have to
on something
gently. Walk toward a thing

But be ready to die,
my grandfather says,
for what is right.

woodson_brown girl dreaming_170x258As I read each draft of Brown Girl Dreaming — and, as Jacqueline says, there were so dang many of them! — I wanted more and more answers. I wanted to know about the love she felt for both her Southern and Northern roots and what it felt like to have a special place in her heart for each of them. I wanted to know what it was like when her mother bravely went off alone to search for a place to bring up her four children, a place that would offer them the most freedom and opportunity.

Looking for her next place.
Our next place.
Right now, our mother says,
we’re only halfway home.

And I imagine her standing
in the middle of a road, her arms out
fingers pointing North and South.

I want to ask:
Will there always be a road?
Will there always be a bus?
Will we always have to choose
between home

and home?

The book grew from three parts to five, as it became clear that more ground needed to be covered for the many facets of Jacqueline’s life. Please tell me more about your religion, I asked. What was it like to go door-to-door as a Jehovah’s Witness and have to introduce yourself to strangers? And in the telling, more stories emerged. Jacqueline’s grandfather (called “Daddy”), as it turned out, did not embrace organized religion. Her uncle, while in jail, converted to Islam. And in living through all this, Jacqueline
grew more open and empathetic to other people’s beliefs:

But I want the world where my daddy is
and don’t know why
anybody’s God would make me
have to choose.

One of the best parts of editing this memoir was learning about how storytelling was a part of young Jacqueline’s life. How she could hold her classmates rapt by repeating stories even before she learned to read. How she knew, early on, that there was enormous power in words:

I want to catch words one day. I want to
hold them
then blow gently,
watch them float
right out of my hands.

And so she has. Jacqueline’s words in Brown Girl Dreaming float off the page; they first linger and then stay even longer with the reader. When the thirty drafts were done, and Jacqueline and I both agreed at the same time that the story was complete, we had advance reading copies made. I gave out the first ones to librarians and educators at the Texas Library Association conference in San Antonio in early 2014. John Schumacher and Colby Sharp shared their copies with Paul Hankins and with Donalyn Miller, who wrote in a Nerdy Book Club blog post about reading the galley on her way home from the convention:

As I read, a silver thread flowed out of Brown Girl Dreaming, and twined up my wrist to my chest — connecting Jackie’s family to me and making them part of me. Following Colby’s scribbled brackets around lines and folded page corners like messages for me to find, he was with me in the book, too. That thread connects me to Jackie now, but it also connects me to Colby, Jillian [Heise], and everyone who will ever read Brown Girl Dreaming.

I love that Jacqueline’s writing has the power to connect us. It reminds us of so many universal parts of growing up: competing with siblings, feeling content in the heart of your family, being confused by a million messages coming at you, struggling to make sense of the senseless, and ultimately finding the power of your own voice. Reading a memoir like Brown Girl Dreaming reminds us that each of us has a voice and needs to find it in our own time; that everyone’s story is important; that we become stronger by dreaming our dreams and sharing our stories; and that books have the power to make the world a better place.

And so I thank Jacqueline Woodson, as well as all the librarians and teachers and booksellers who have worked to get this book into the hands of so many readers. You are all changing the world.

Profile of 2015 Coretta Scott King Author Award winner Jacqueline Woodson. From the July/August 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. Read Jacqueline Woodson’s Coretta Scott King Author Award acceptance speech for Brown Girl Dreaming. For more speeches, profiles, and articles click the tag ala 2015.


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11. Worms - a bookwrap


Author:  Bernard Friot

Illustrator:  Aurélie Guillerey

Ages:  4-7

Unwrapping some of the illustrations...

About the book...

A small boy is forced to attend a dinner party given by his dad for executives from his father's company.  He can hardly stand it...he is is so bored.  Finally his father asks him to go get the salads from the kitchen. The boy eagerly agrees, anything to escape this tediousness.  

As he eyes the salads a mischievous little thought enters into his head: 

"I'm not sure why, but looking at the salads, I suddenly thought of worms." he explains. "The worms I use for fishing bait that I keep in the fridge, way at the back, behind the yogurt." 

Dare he even think of what to do with them next?  Yep, he schemes and he smiles and then he adds an extra garnish to the salad - one that will liven up the deadly party for sure.  Oh my!

With an impish grin the little boy rolls the salads back to the dining room and proudly serves his special of the day. The illustrations take it from there.  You will have a good chuckle as you observe the guests reactions as they discover the hidden surprises embedded ( and wiggling ) in their salads.  The little boy turns boring into entertaining!  

The illustrator does a brilliant job of adding humorous touches and wonderful details through body language and shocked facial expressions on both the guests and the worms.  

This would be a great read-aloud and kids would be disgusted at the very thought of not only finding a worm in their salad but having to eat it!  Yew!!  Laughter will ensue and discussions will be had regarding how each of the adults responded to their squirmy discovery.

You will simply love the ending of the story.  Sometimes what goes around comes around...there enough said.  I highly recommend this book and caution you to check out your salads very carefully from now on.  

About the author and illustrator ...

BERNARD FRIOT is a teacher and author who has written more than 50 books for children and teens, and has translated just as many from German and Italian. He lives in Besançon, France.

AURÉLIE GUILLEREY studied decorative arts in Strasbourg, and has since illustrated many children’s books, including Tell Me About Colors, Shapes, and Opposites. She lives in Rennes, France, with her husband and young son. 

Read on and read always!

It's a wrap.

Contact me at storywrapsblog@gmail.com

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12. Top Ten Books I've Read So Far

The topic this week for Top Ten Tuesday hosted at The Broke and the Bookish is Top Books I've Read So Far in 2015.

The Cottage in the Woods. Katherine Coville. 2015. Random House. 400 pages. [Source: Library]

Up A Road Slowly. Irene Hunt. 1966. 208 pages. [Source: Bought]

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography. Laura Ingalls Wilder. Edited by Pamela Smith Hill. 2014. South Dakota State Historical State Society. 400 pages. [Source: Library] 

The Castle Behind Thorns. Merrie Haskell. 2014. HarperCollins. 336 pages. [Source: Library]

Miss Marjoribanks. Margaret Oliphant. 1866. 512 pages. [Source: Bought] 

The Family Under the Bridge. Natalie Savage Carlson. Illustrated by Garth Williams. 1958/1989. HarperCollins. 123 pages.

Dory Fantasmagory. Abby Hanlon. 2014. Penguin. 160 pages. [Source: Library]

The Silmarillion. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1977. 386 pages. [Source: Bought]

Beyond the Parallel. Robin Brande. 2015. Ryer Publishing. 348 pages. [Source: Review copy]

El Deafo. Cece Bell. 2014. Harry N. Abrams. 233 pages. [Source: Library]

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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13. Board Book: The Doghouse

Board Book: The Doghouse. Jan Thomas. 2008/2015.  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 36 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence:
Oh no! The ball went into THE DOGHOUSE.
Who will get it out?

Premise/Plot: A cow, a mouse, a duck, and a pig are playing ball together....when....it happens. The ball is kicked into the doghouse. Who is brave? Who is scared? Will they get their ball back? Read and see!

My thoughts: I do love Jan Thomas. And The Doghouse is a great example of just why. The Doghouse is funny, playful, and dramatic. Some drama can help keep read alouds fun and spirited. This one is just predictable enough--repetitive enough--to keep it fun.

The same characters can be found in A Birthday for Cow. (Cows feature into two other Thomas picture books: Let's Sing A Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy and my personal favorite, Is Everyone Ready for Fun?)

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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14. Dream Keepers: 2015 Coretta Scott King Author Award Acceptance

woodson_brown girl dreamingIt is Friday afternoon and I’m sitting in a restaurant in Vancouver, B.C. In an hour, I will give my final talk of a two-day visit. In these two days, I’ve visited a number of schools in Vancouver — both independent and public. As I stood in front of each crowd, I was astonished by a thing I’ve not encountered for many years now — being the only African American in an otherwise incredibly diverse room. I kept thinking to myself — “We are all almost here.”


At the Hudson Children’s Book Festival in May, a young white reporter asked me, How has the award changed your life? I looked at her a moment, then said, Which award? She fell silent, looking confused. I was not inclined to fill the silence. In Brown Girl Dreaming I write, “Even the silence has a story to tell you. Just listen. Listen.” So I listened to the space grow between us — knowing the answer she would give was not the answer I wanted to hear. I knew her answer was going to come from her own sense of what is important in the world as she knew it. I held up the book and pointed to the CSK seal on it, letting more silence sit between us before I began in (as my partner likes to refer to it) my Joho Manner, to calmly and quietly break things down for her.

The Coretta Scott King Honor Award was given to me for the first time in 1995 for my book I Hadn’t Meant To Tell You This, a story of two girls growing up in Chauncey, Ohio — one wealthy and black, the other poor and white. Both being raised by their fathers. Because the book dealt with issues of, among other things, a deeply flawed health care system, friendship across lines of economic class, and sexual abuse, I was stunned and so pleased that the committee had awarded this book. But in 1996, when my novel From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun was given an Honor, while I was still young and nervous and new to the world of young people’s literature, I just thought, “Wow!” I had never dreamed that a book with a gay mom would even get published, let alone win a CSK Honor Award. I realized then that there were some people in this world who had my back — some people letting me know: “We got you.” Both of these moments changed my life.

And again my life was changed when the CSK committee gave the Author Award to my book Miracle’s Boys in 2001. That year, we learned that employees at the hotel where the awards ceremony was to be held were picketing. When the CSK members refused to cross the picket lines and, instead, canceled the ceremony, I knew I had found my people. In the way of our people always finding a way to make a way out of no way, my publisher and other publishers came together and organized the CSK Tea that Bryan Collier, the CSK Award winner for illustration, and I spoke at. The morning before that tea, I learned I was pregnant with our daughter, Toshi. To stand in that room and be among new family and old family, a generation coming, kindred spirits and people who deeply, deeply believed in me, was life-altering. And the years after these awards, when the CSK committee chose Locomotion and Each Kindness as Honor Books — launching those books into the world with their blessing, believing deeply…in me — these events have forever changed my life.

The first time I read Rudine Sims Bishop’s writing and understood the work I was brought here to do, my life was changed forever. The first time Deb Taylor brought me to the Enoch Pratt Free Library, my life was changed forever. The first time I hugged Walter Dean Myers, sat beside Virginia Hamilton and basked in the warmth of her smile, snapped a photo with Tom Feelings, read Stevie by John Steptoe — my life was changed forever. Every time I get to be in a room with Dr. Henrietta Smith, my life is changed.

So while there are some who will try to find ways to erase the magnitude of this award, the amazingness of us and our work — there are many more who know the importance of our stories in the world. So to the Coretta Scott King committee who chose Brown Girl Dreaming as this year’s award winner, I say Thank You — you have, once again, changed my life. To my editor, Nancy Paulsen, who dug so deeply into the pages of this story and helped me to believe that there was some sense to this journey, and a purpose,  I say Thank You — you continue to change my life. And to my Penguin Random House family, whose passion comes through with every email and phone call and visit to the office and dinner and champagne toast — I say Thank You. To my past editor, Wendy Lamb, who said “Write what you want,” and my past agent, Charlotte Sheedy, who said “We need to find you a home” and found me Nancy Paulsen — I say Thank You. To my present agent, Kathleen Nishimoto, whose energy and dedication and joy just…just makes me smile — I say Thank You. To my single mom, who, during the Great Migration, somehow got four kids from Greenville to Brooklyn and made sure we were all educated — in memory, I say Thank You. To the Woodsons and the Irbys who are still on this planet and the ones who have moved to the next place, I say Thank You. And to my family — my amazing partner, my glorious children, the aunts and uncles (two of whom are on this stage with me—Chris and Jason!—and Kwame, when you come to Brooklyn, we’re gonna rope you in, too!), and to the rest of our village who change our lives by being here to help us through every single day — I say Thank You!


From left to right: Christopher Myers, Kwame Alexander, Jason Reynolds, Jacqueline Woodson, and Rita Williams-Garcia. Photo courtesy of Jason Reynolds.

I am deeply honored. We are here because of our ancestors and elders and the people who hold us up every day — thanks for helping all of us never forget them or the way each of us finds a way to make a way out of no way — every single day. Thank you so much, all of you who believe in Diverse Books, who believe in keeping young brown children — and all children — dreaming.

Jacqueline Woodson is the 2015 Coretta Scott King Author Award winner for Brown Girl Dreaming (Paulsen/Penguin). Her acceptance speech was delivered at the annual American Library Association Conference in San Francisco on June 28, 2015. From the July/August 2015 Special Awards issue of The Horn Book Magazine. Read editor Nancy Paulsen’s profile of Jacqueline Woodson. For more speeches, profiles, and articles click the tag ala 2015


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15. head in the clouds

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16. Cover Reveal for THE SERPENT KING


Today we have the honor of revealing the cover for THE SERPENT KING by Jeff Zentner, forthcoming from Random House on March 8th, 2016. Jeff is a really cool guy and I was so excited when his book sold, and while book deals are crazy exciting and life changing, I was REALLY pumped when Jeff messaged me with the beauty we’re revealing today. Once you manage to pull yourself away from this arresting cover be sure to continue scrolling to learn more about the book, Jeff’s thoughts on the cover, an insightful look into the cover process between Jeff’s editor Emily Easton and cover designer Alison Impey, how you can win 1 of 5 arcs, and a high-five from yours truly.

HERE’S THE COVER! Isn’t it glorious?

Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life—at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, as he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and his very public fall from grace.

The only antidote to all this venom is his friendship with fellow outcasts Travis and Lydia . But as they are starting their senior year, Dill feels the coils of his future tightening around him. The end of high school will lead to new beginnings for Lydia, whose edgy fashion blog is her ticket out of their rural Tennessee town. And Travis is happy wherever he is thanks to his obsession with the epic book series Bloodfall and the fangirl who may be turning his harsh reality into real-life fantasy. But Dill’s only escape is his music and his secret feelings for Lydia—neither of which he is brave enough to share. Graduation feels more like an ending to Dill than a beginning. But even before then, Dill must cope with another ending—one which will rock his life to the core.

Debut novelist Jeff Zentner provides an unblinking and, at times, comic view of the hard realities of growing up in the Bible belt, and an intimate look at the struggles to find one’s true self in the wreckage of the past.


Author photo jacketADAM SILVERA: Jeff! Dude. I’m obsessed with this cover. The scaly font is pretty baller and the tone has this cross appeal vibe for both the YA and adult markets. I would’ve cried happy tears to find this attachment in my “Book Cover!” email. But this is YOUR cover so tell me how YOU feel.

JEFF ZENTNER: Let me tell you how I feel about this cover. If Crown had given me money to hire a designer and do anything I wanted, I might have come up with something I love half as much as this cover. Not only is the cover beautiful, the book has a gorgeous velvet matte finish that you just want to roll around on naked. I truly feel fortunate to have a brilliant designer like Alison and a brilliant editor like Emily in my corner.


EMILY EASTON (Editor): When you publish a book you have taken to heart and nurtured for so long, it is sometimes difficult to know what to put on the cover to help readers love it as much as you do—or at least to make them pull it off the shelf, which is the first step on the journey toward loving it. With such a richly textured story, there were so many directions we could have gone—and did try—as part of the process.

ALISON IMPEY (Cover designer): There was one line in the book that really stuck with me. In English class, Dill is asked what Lord of the Flies is about. He answers, “I guess it’s saying that we’re all born with seeds in us. And if we let them see sunlight and air, they’ll grow through us and break us. Like a tree growing up through a sidewalk.” This inspired a couple early cover concepts. One was a screen-print-style image of a guitar with a tree growing out of it that represented the creative seed in Dill that with a little “sunlight and air” could grow. A second option featured a tree, its branches reaching up through the title, with a snake wrapped tightly around the trunk. We then found the perfect illustrator to help bring these concepts to life.

EMILY: We shared these illustrated covers, and while everyone agreed the images were striking, the consensus was that the illustrated approach was making the book look too young for our targeted audience. There was also concern that the symbolic snake pushed the book more in a fantasy direction, while the content is realistic fiction.

ALISON: At this stage we agreed to go back to the drawing board. We enlisted a couple of designers to bring as many new ideas to the table as possible. We wanted to make sure no stone went unturned. As new ideas started to roll in, some featuring snakes, we realized that with our title—The Serpent King—we had fallen into the trap of saying and showing the same thing.

EMILY: As we moved in a new direction, we were drawn to the idea of showing the main character, Dill, to somehow depict the strength of his inner light, which allowed him to prevail against the darkness that threatened to extinguish it. Dill is really the heart of the story, and we thought putting him front and center could draw readers in.

ALISON: It was very helpful for us to regroup and prioritize what we wanted to achieve with the cover. When we started to discuss “triumph” as the main theme and the emotion we wanted to convey, it really helped us break through and refocus.

EMILY: We had two cover versions focusing on Dill that we were seriously considering. But there was one image from Alison’s early concepts that we couldn’t forget. It captured the sense of place, the power of friendship that was the saving grace for our three main characters, and the sense of hope that readers are left with by the book’s end. Originally I had passed this image by because I was looking for something either more iconic or more character-driven. But when Alison paired this image with a dynamic type treatment she created, it gave the cover concept a whole new power and interest.

ALISON: When we discussed triumph against all odds, I envisioned Dill breaking away and shedding his past. I wanted the title type treatment to represent this, as if the scales of Dill’s past are breaking away, scattering, about to give sun and air to that seed in him. So after a long process and many, many cover concepts, we did in fact land on an image that was in the very first batch of ideas. To some this may feel like the process was all for naught, but it wasn’t, and it rarely ever is. You always discover something new. The type treatment on the final cover is something that evolved through this process, and I am very happy it did.

EMILY: When we showed this concept to our team, it was met with a resounding “yes!” We all believe it has just the right appeal to draw in as wide an audience as this special book deserves. Or at least that’s our hope!

Thank you so much, Emily and Alison! I’m sure our readers will take away a lot from the insight behind this incredible cover.




If you want a chance to win an advance reader’s copy before the book’s March 8th, 2016 publication be sure to tweet about this cover reveal or share the cover on Instagram using the #TheSerpentKing hashtag. Jeff Zentner/Random House will select 5 lucky winners on Friday, July 3rd! You can enter multiple times on Twitter or Instagram (or both platforms!) but you must use the #TheSerpentKing hashtag each time.

*high five*

What do you think of this cover? Would you like to hear from more editors and cover designers in future posts? Let us know in the comments below! :)

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17. Immune profiling of tumors may better stage early cancers

When immune cells infiltrate tumors in large numbers, patients do better. Now researchers aim to harness this immune response to predict outcomes. The Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) in Milwaukee is coordinating an international effort to validate Immunoscore, an assay that quantifies this immune response.

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18. Avengers of Oz: Age of Tin Man

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19. Five (More) Questions With Pamela Mordecai

Pamela Mordecai

Set on the island of St. Christopher, Pamela Mordecai's latest book, Red Jacket, confronts the issues of prejudice and colorism in Africa and its diaspora. Growing up in a large extended black family, the protagonist, Grace Carpenter, must face the taunts of neighbourhood children and elders who are disturbed by her presence. For Grace is a redibo with copper coloured skin, red hair, and grey eyes. Adding to Grace's confusion about her place within her family and culture is her ignorance of her birth mother and the resistance of family members to reveal the identity of her father. Grace’s quest to discover her familial origins takes her on a journey away from the Caribbean to Africa and back home again.

After reading this remarkable novel, I had the pleasure of conducting this interview via email with Pam.

1. Why did you choose an imaginary island as the Caribbean setting?

I chose an imaginary island for the Caribbean setting because it gave me latitude. In answering that question – because it's been asked before – I've invoked a poem of mine in Certifiable called "Jus a Likl lovin.” There are two lines in that poem that speak of "the Mona moon heaving/ up from the sea". Kamau Brathwaite called me to account on that, since of course the Mona moon does no such thing! So I had to confess to him that I moved the moon because I needed the rhyme! I didn't want to be hamstrung by that kind of constraint.

If I made up my own island, I could write without being accountable where physical and social settings, behaviours, customs and even history are concerned. Thus, Marcus Garvey visits the imaginary St Chris, St Chris children speak 'standard' English exclusively when they are on school premises, and so on. Though I know Jamaica over fifty years well, I didn't want it to tie me down. To put it simply, I took the line of least resistance and greatest imaginative freedom.

2. Is this the same reason you chose Mabuli (the imagined West African country)?

In the case of Mabuli, the situation was the same and quite the opposite – the same because I needed the imaginative freedom with Mabuli also, the opposite because I needed it for other reasons. Where the island setting was concerned, I didn't want to be constrained by the need to be accurate in describing a real and very familiar place. Where the West African setting was concerned, I was working on the basis of research alone, for I've never been to West Africa. Though I was describing a made-up place, it's a place with a very specific location – Mali to the West, Burkina Faso to the east, Côte d'Ivoire to the south.

In order to be persuasive, I had to be accurate about climate, topography, flora and fauna, the history of the region, the weather over the period of years when the action in the novel takes place, and so on. So that there is indeed a Bandagara Escarpment in Mali, and the Tellem people did live there before the Dogon, and the Tellem were indeed reputed to fly, never mind that the specific incident in Red Jacket that explains how English got to Mabuli is imagined.

I needed to make Mabuli persuasive in those respects, but I needed my fancy licensed to advance some important aspects of the story, for instance the 'fact' of an organization such as the Oti, as well as certain, if you want, magical realist elements, like the walking stones and the weeping keystone in the Kenbara Stone Circle.

3. Why did you include Marcus Garvey in the narrative?

Many people fail to recognize what an extraordinary man Garvey was, and the breadth of his influence. It stretched far and wide, and I wanted my imaginary St Chris to be one of the places that he visited, and where he left his mark.

4. Ultimately, Red Jacket is about Grace's search for identity and one of her most steadfast allies is the priest, Father James Atule. Are you suggesting that the quest for self-awareness is also a spiritual journey?

At this point in my life, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s all one: as Lauryn Hill famously said, “Everything is everything.” For a while now, I’ve avoided the word “religion” because it suggests allegiances, and these have always led to fights, but I’m not sure that I even distinguish between spiritual and physical any more. There is only the journey of the individual self trying to find its way with other selves through time, in a perhaps imagined, perhaps material, world. Grace is lucky to have James Atule S.J. join her on that journey, but not because he’s a priest – because he is who he is, a fellow pilgrim, fallible and sometimes frightened, but generous and caring deeply about his fellow human beings nonetheless. Even if she hadn’t met him, there are others who from early on show Grace (not by instruction, but also by being who they are) that the journey to self-awareness and a sense of worth as a person is not a material one.

The most important of these persons is of course, Gramps. As a child Grace observes that Gramps’s God is different and that “he and Gramps have conversations all the time.” Also, “God and Gramps are often scamps together.” Her idea of a rascally God in cahoots with her rascally grandfather is an early grasp of a person with rich self-awareness, a conviction of his unique and worthy personhood. Shortly after that, she makes this quite clear: “Gramps is special. God is smart so he would know.” We walk in quest of our specialness, but neither wealth nor importance nor fame will bestow it on us. For sure, our journey to discovering who we are is what we call “spiritual” – for lack of a fuller appreciation of the Everything-that’s-everything!

5. I was really struck by this passage: "Jesus says to love our neighbours as ourselves... He exemplified that proper self-love, daring to be who he was, the Messiah, son of God, and getting killed for it. Whenever we are rejected, we need to remember that and to remember too that he rises again and his resurrected self renews the sacred self of each of us, making us more lovable.” Would it be presumptuous to suggest that this manifesto of faith is not merely part of a text, but refers also to your life and career?

It wouldn’t be presumptuous at all.

About Pamela Mordecai

Pamela Mordecai was born in Jamaica. She has published five collections of poetry, with a sixth, de book of Mary, to appear in fall 2015. Pink Icing, an anthology of short fiction, appeared in 2006, while Red Jacket is her first novel. She has published five children’s books and her poetry for children is widely anthologized – indeed, one of her children’s poems recently appeared in The Guardian (UK) in a list of “top ten poems to remember and recite”. She has also written many textbooks and edited or co-edited groundbreaking anthologies of Caribbean writing. Her poems have been shortlisted for the Canada Writes CBC Poetry Prize and the Bridport Prize (U.K.) and her short fiction for the James Tiptree Jr Literary Award. She is the recipient of the Institute of Jamaica’s Centenary and Bronze Musgrave Medals, the Vic Reid Award for Children’s Writing, and the Burla Award. Pamela lives in Kitchener.

FIve Questions With Pamela Mordecai

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20. Literary Events This Week: Genevieve Valentine and a Summer Poetry Panel

wordstore1Here are some literary events to pencil in your calendar this week.

To get your event posted on our calendar, visit our Facebook Your Literary Event page. Please post your event at least one week prior to its date.

Larry Kramer and Bill Goldstein will sit for a conversation on Kramer’s book, The American People: Volume 1: Search for My Heart. Check it out on Tuesday, June 30 at McNally Jackson starting 7 p.m. (New York, NY)

The Summer in Poetry City panel will feature five writers. Meet them on Tuesday, June 30 at the Housing Works Bookstore Café starting 7 p.m. (New York, NY)

Genevieve Valentine and Kelly Link will join forces for a discussion on Valentine’s book, The Girls at the Kingfisher Club. Join in on Wednesday, July 1 at Word Bookstore (the Brooklyn branch) starting 7 p.m. (Brooklyn, NY)

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21. An Agent's Thoughts on a Publisher's Restructuring

It's no longer news that there have been some dramatic changes at Berkley/NAL, changes that aren't necessarily a complete surprise, but still difficult for everyone involved.

I knew this was something I needed to, and wanted to, address on the blog, but after several starts and restarts I realized I wasn't sure what I wanted to say.

When Random House and Penguin announced the merger in 2013 everyone in publishing knew that change would be coming. At the beginning of 2015 we started to see the first effects of those changes.  Appointments were made announcing new names in new positions, contract renewals were slow to come and imprints were consolidated. While I'm not sure any of us foresaw what exactly would happen, it's hard not to look at these changes and see why it did happen. In many cases there was just too much overlap between the many imprints of the new Penguin Random House.

It's been a tough week for a lot of people, including the BookEnds team. We've been in business for over 15 years and we've worked with editors over at Berkley/NAL for 15 years. These are long-standing, trusted relationships. I'm not going to lie, when I hung up the phone with an editor who lost her job I cried. She's good at what she does and a victim of restructuring. I'm going to miss discussing everything from cover copy, to contract negotiations, to cover art, to an author's next idea with her.

While agents and editors are often seen as working on opposing sides, the truth is we work more closely than many realize. I think sometimes even more closely than we realize. Together we are part of an author's team and together we work to try to make each decision in the author's best interest. That means long discussions about the cover art, the cover copy and even the direction an author is taking with her next book or her career. An author's success means success for all of us. Seeing an editor leave, for any reason, is losing a trusted member of my team.

Well if I'm upset, you can imagine the state of many Berkley/NAL authors. The question in almost every author's mind is what's next. What can an author expect during a time of upheaval with their publisher and what should an author do? Of course each author's experience is different. For some everything is status quo and nothing should change. For most, unfortunately, change is inevitable. Even those who are lucky enough to retain the same editor, change is happening within the publisher and that will have an impact on everyone. This could be because of the change in the art department, the copy department or even buying decisions. I'm not saying it's all bad, I'm just saying there will be change.

The first thing to remember is that we can't control the actions of others. The only person you can control is yourself. Panicking isn't going to help, but coming up with a plan might.

Once you've taken a few deep breaths here are some suggestions:

1. Penguin Random House just introduced this wonderful Author Portal where you can see sales, royalty reports and get hints and tips to how to build your brand as an author. Spend some time there and really look things over. Take notes if you need to. Get some perspective on what more you might be able to do to build sales and, most importantly, get perspective on how your brand is doing. A good CEO always has an idea of how well the company is doing at any given moment. As the CEO of your brand you should do the same. Check out your book sales. Are they going up? Going down? Do they seem to be holding strong?

2. Talk with your agent. Once you have an idea of what your numbers look like, give your agent a call to discuss them with her. What concerns do you have and are they valid? Should you continue on the same path or is coming up with something new a good idea? Knowing how to proceed is always smart, plus, as one author once said to me, "it's always good to have something in your back pocket."

3. Ignore the gossip. I can only imagine what the writing loops and discussion boards look like right now. In fact, I think I'd prefer not to imagine it. Watch out for the doom and gloomers, the Chicken Littles with the falling skies. This sucks. It sucks for a lot of people, but as in any good Dystopian YA, those who are prepared to fight and accept change will win. Those who want to sit in a hole and refuse to accept change, will die (probably in some horribly gruesome death). If you are concerned about some of what you're hearing please call your agent. Many times she has an insider's perspective that can be very helpful.

4. And here is the same advice I give in any situation. Keep writing and make your next book even better than the last.

Change is always a frightening thing and it's not going to be an easy road for some people, but those who are willing to pull up their boots and keep walking (love that song) will always see the light at the other side.


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22. Return of the Sandman Meditations

Boomtron just published my latest Sandman Meditation, this one on Chapter Two of The Wake.

"Sandman Meditation?" you say. "That sounds ... vaguely familiar..."

In July 2010, I started writing a series of short pieces called Sandman Meditations in which I proceeded through each issue of Neil Gaiman's Sandman comic and offered whatever thoughts happened to come to mind. The idea was Jay Tomio's, and at first the Meditations were published on his Gestalt Mash site, then later Boomtron. The basic concept was that we'd see what happened when somebody without much background in comics, who'd never read Sandman before, spent time reading through it all.

I wrote 71 Meditations between July 2010 and June 2012, getting all the way up through the first installment of the last story in the regular series, The Wake. 75,000 words.

And then stopped. I read Chapter 2 of The Wake and had nothing to say. I tried writing through the lack of words, but the more I tried to write the more what I wrote nauseated me. I couldn't go on.

I got through 71 Meditations by only looking back once — in the piece on "Ramadan", I misread a word (yes, one word) and completely misunderstood the story. When Neil gently brought the mistake to our attention, I was shocked. So I went back and re-read "Ramadan" and what I'd written about it. Though in the immediate moment, I felt like a total idiot with entire chicken farms of egg on my face, I've come to cherish that mistake, because it showed just how carefully and subtly constructed so much of Sandman is, and how a simple slip in reading can make a text flip all around. It gave me a certain freedom, too. I'd always been terrified of making some dumb, obvious mistake in my reading of Sandman, because I know it's so well known by its passionate fans, and I didn't want to either let them down or annoy them. Once I made that big mistake, I felt somehow freer to go wrong, and that kind of freedom is necessary for writing. I went forward, trying hard not to think about whether I was writing well or terribly, thinking well or thinking badly, reading well or reading as if I'd never learned to read at all.

But by the 71st installment, my confidence fell apart. I was terrified that I'd written nothing but drivel, and the weight of that fear pulled me back. Why should anybody want to waste time reading what I've got to say about this? I wondered. This is a beloved series of comics, a beloved story full of beloved characters, an intricately woven tale that I'm just blundering through blindly. I couldn't do it.

Eric Schaller kept bugging me. "So are you ever going to finish your Sandman stuff?" he'd ask, and I'd change the subject.

I figured as more time passed, everybody would forget about my crazy reading experiment.

Jay Tomio remembered. I felt terrible for letting him down. He'd been so supportive, and I'd failed in the end. But he never seemed to hold it against me; he seemed to understand. It had been a long run. Boomtron went through some changes. The Meditations disappeared for a while. Then Jay started reconstructing, and so out of the blue one day I got a note: "Any chance you'd like to continue?" he asked.

I was terrified. A lot had changed. What would it mean to continue?

But continue I did, and continue I will. (I'll finish The Wake in the coming weeks, then continue on to Endless Nights. If all goes well, I think it would be fun to finish up with the recent Overture, to return full circle back to the beginning. Fingers crossed.)

As you'll see from the new piece, I thought of David Beronä, and I knew exactly what he'd say if he were here for me to ask about it. "Use the time you have," he'd say. "Do it now."

It's nice to be back.

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23. What's New in YA


Are you wondering what's new in YA today? Check out these wonderful new releases!




A luminous YA love story that evokes Judy Blume's Forever for a new generation.

Sarah—Bean to her friends and family—is an aspiring astronomer and champion mathlete. She lives behind her beloved telescope, with her head in the stars and her feet planted firmly on the ground. For as long as she can remember, she's also lived in the shadow of her beautiful older sister, Scarlett. But after a traumatic end to the school year, Sarah goes to Cape Cod for the summer with her family, determined to grow up. It's there that she meets gorgeous, older college boy Andrew. He sees her as the girl she wants to be. A girl like Scarlett. He thinks she's older, too—and she doesn't correct him. For Sarah, it's a summer of firsts. Before she knows what's happened, one little lie has transformed into something real. And by the end of August, she might have to choose between falling in love, and finding herself. Fans of Jenny Han and Stephanie Perkins are destined to fall for this romantic and heartfelt coming-of-age novel about how life and love are impossible to predict.


*To see reviews and find links to buy this book, go HERE!






When Lexi Shaw seduced Oakfield High's resident bad boy Tyler Flynn at the beginning of senior year, he seemed perfectly okay with her rules:

1. Avoid her at school.

2. Keep his mouth shut about what they do together.

3. Never tease her about her friend (and unrequited crush) Ben.


Because with his integrity and values and golden boy looks, Ben can never find out about what she’s been doing behind closed doors with Tyler. Or that her mom’s too busy drinking and chasing losers to pay the bills. Or that Lexi’s dad hasn’t been a part of her life for the last thirteen years. But with Tyler suddenly breaking the rules, Ben asking her out, and her dad back in the picture, how long will she be able to go on faking perfect?


*To see reviews and find links to buy this book, go HERE!





Paint a mural. Start a battle. Change the world.

Sierra Santiago planned an easy summer of  making art and hanging out with her friends. But then a corpse crashes the first party of the season. Her stroke-ridden grandfather starts apologizing over and over. And when the murals in her neighborhood begin to weep real tears... Well, something more sinister than the usual Brooklyn ruckus is going on.

With the help of a fellow artist named Robbie, Sierra discovers shadowshaping, a thrilling magic that infuses ancestral spirits into paintings, music, and stories. But someone is killing the shadowshapers one by one -- and the killer believes Sierra is hiding their greatest secret. Now she must unravel her family's past, take down the killer in the present, and save the future of shadowshaping for generations to come.

Full of a joyful, defiant spirit and writing as luscious as a Brooklyn summer night, Shadowshaperintroduces a heroine and magic unlike anything else in fantasy fiction, and marks the YA debut of a bold new voice.

*To see reviews and find links to buy this book, go HERE!






After almost a year in Japan, Katie Greene has finally unearthed the terrible secret behind her boyfriend Tomohiro's deadly ability to bring drawings to life—not only is he descended from Kami, the ancient Japanese gods, but he is the heir to a tragedy that occurred long ago, a tragedy that is about to repeat. 

Even as the blood of a vengeful god rages inside Tomo, Katie is determined to put his dark powers to sleep. In order to do so, she and Tomo must journey to find the three Imperial Treasures of Japan. Gifts from the goddess Amaterasu herself, these treasures could unlock all of the secrets about Tomo's volatile ancestry and quell the ink's lust for destruction. But in order to complete their quest, Tomo and Katie must confront out-of-control Kami and former friend Jun, who has begun his own quest of revenge against those he believes have wronged him. To save the world, and themselves, Katie and Tomo will be up against one of the darkest Kami creations they've ever encountered—and they may not make it out alive.

*To see reviews and find links to buy this book, go HERE!






Josh Chester loves being a Hollywood bad boy, coasting on his good looks, his parties, his parents' wealth, and the occasional modeling gig. But his laid-back lifestyle is about to change. To help out his best friend, Liam, he joins his hit teen TV show, Daylight Falls...opposite Vanessa Park, the one actor immune to his charms. (Not that he's trying to charm her, of course.) Meanwhile, his drama-queen mother blackmails him into a new family reality TV show, with Josh in the starring role. Now that he's in the spotlight--on everyone's terms but his own--Josh has to decide whether a life as a superstar is the one he really wants.

Vanessa Park has always been certain about her path as an actor, despite her parents' disapproval. But with all her relationships currently in upheaval, she's painfully uncertain about everything else. When she meets her new career handler, Brianna, Van is relieved to have found someone she can rely on, now that her BFF, Ally, is at college across the country. But as feelings unexpectedly evolve beyond friendship, Van's life reaches a whole new level of confusing. And she'll have to choose between the one thing she's always loved...and the person she never imagined she could.

*To see reviews and find links to buy this book, go HERE!






If there are any new YA books we missed, let us know in the comments below, and we'll add them to the list! 

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24. How First Book & The White House are Transforming Education Today

Barack Obama Education Quote

At the heart of First Book’s mission to help children in need read, learn and succeed is the distribution of educational content. Breaking down the barriers to accessing books and other information can lift the kids we serve and their communities out of poverty and into bright futures.

When President Obama announced the ConnectED Initiative two years ago, he set an ambitious goal to provide 99 percent of American students with access to next-generation broadband internet in their classrooms and libraries by 2018. And this past April, the President followed up on this commitment with the Open eBook Initiative, a program aimed at creating a world-class digital library and making it available to students aged 4-18 from low-income families.

First Book is proud to partner with the White House to support this bold program that will bring all of America’s classrooms into the digital age. Specifically, First Book will help ensure the eBooks library reaches students in low-income families.

Many of the 180,000 schools and educational programs we serve are already working to transform their districts’ teaching and learning in the digital age. We’re excited to support Open eBooks to reinforce their efforts and take strides to ensure all children have a world of knowledge within reach.

The post How First Book & The White House are Transforming Education Today appeared first on First Book Blog.

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25. Matthew Santoro Inks Deal With Perigee

Matthew Santoro (GalleyCat)Matthew Santoro has landed a deal with Perigee, an imprint at Penguin Random House. This YouTube star’s channel boasts a following of 4 million subscribers.

Santoro (pictured, via) will write a book featuring unique and funny facts called Mind=Blown. The facts will cover a wide range of topics including history, science, and technology.

Collective Digital Studio and Marc Gerald, a literary agent at The Agency Group, negotiated the deal with Marian Lizzi, the editor in chief of Perigee. A publication date has been scheduled for August 2016.

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