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Viewing: Blog Posts from All 1562 Blogs, dated 5/2012 [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 6,156
1. Dark Fairy Tales, Zombies and more…

A collection of my favorite illustrations of dark fairy tale characters, including Alice in Wonderland, Queen of Hearts, Zombie Girl and more… To order prints, please got to my store now
Cheshire Cat Wicked Christmas Bunny Girl Who Loves Lemurs Kitty Unicorn Miss Wonderland Zombie Love Graveyard What did they put in those strawberries Queen of Hearts prints_slider

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2. Dark Fairy Tales, Zombies and more…

A collection of my favorite illustrations of dark fairy tale characters, including Alice in Wonderland, Queen of Hearts, Zombie Girl and more… To order prints, please got to my store now
Cheshire Cat Wicked Christmas Bunny Girl Who Loves Lemurs Kitty Unicorn Miss Wonderland Zombie Love Graveyard What did they put in those strawberries Queen of Hearts prints_slider

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3. Book illustration

Friend and budding writer Daniel Clausen has asked me to provide a chapter illustration for his new book The Ghosts of Nagasaki. Here's some visual research and concept sketches for it.

0 Comments on Book illustration as of 6/1/2012 1:35:00 AM
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4. Conversation With R. Narvaez

R. Narvaez

Nuyorican writer R. Narvaez was born and raised in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. His mother came from Ponce, Puerto Rico; his father from Naranjito. Narvaez received his master's degree from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and later attended the Humber School for Writers on a scholarship. He has taught at the high school and college levels and worked in magazine publishing and advertising. His fiction has been published in Mississippi Review, Murdaland, Street Magazine, Thrilling Detective, Indian Country Noir, Long Island Noir, Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery, and You Don't Have a Clue: Latino Mystery Stories for Teens. He blogs at Nuyorican Obituary. His latest is a short story collection, Roachkiller and Other Stories (Beyond the Page Books, 2012), which I recommend to our readers. Check it out.

Manuel Ramos: For readers who may not be familiar with your work, how would you describe your writing? Why should La Bloga's readers pick up one of your stories? What can they expect?
R. Narvaez: I like to think my style changes to suit the story. In this collection (Roachkiller and Other Stories), for example, you can expect to meet a variety of characters, desperate people in desperate situations, each told a different way. “Roachkiller” is told in first-person perspective by an ex-con who refers to himself in third person. “Unsynchronicity” is my attempt at postmodern noir, whatever that is. “GhostD” is a fairly straightforward detective story. You get crime, mystery, action, humor, and there are a lot of dogs—especially in “Juracán.” I love dogs. I think your readers will enjoy the variety of voices and genres. And the dogs.

MR:  Something for everybody. I agree, I think our readers will enjoy Roachkiller. This collection is a wild group of ten stories that are difficult, if not impossible, to categorize. You've got noir, hard-boiled, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, crime fiction – all covered with black humor and bitter, almost relentless, poignancy. I think it is an excellent collection. Some of

3 Comments on Conversation With R. Narvaez, last added: 6/1/2012
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5. Guest Post: Renée LaTulippe and No Water River

After posting a slew of video clips from spring presentations at conferences, it's perfect timing to feature a guest post by fellow blogger, Renée M. LaTulippe, of No Water River: A Video Poetry Resource for Teachers and Students. If you haven't checked her site out before, it's well worth it-- a unique and valuable contribution to sharing poetry with young people.

No Water River: A Video Poetry Resource for Teachers and Students

Renée writes...

Although I started my video blog No Water River as a personal playground for my own children’s poetry, it didn’t take long to realize that it could and should be a lot more than that. I started thinking about how much time even young kids spend on the computer and thought, Wouldn’t it be neat to put even more poetry in front of them so they can see it and hear it? That’s when I started asking other poets to join me and add their voices and poems to the project, which has since become a mission to create a vast online video library of children’s poets reading their own work.

Now that I’ve found the groove, I thought it would be a good time to talk about how teachers and students can use the NWR poetry video library in the classroom. Following are just a few ideas to get started.

Types of posts / Grade levels
• The contemporary poetry on the site is geared to younger kids from pre-K to elementary, though older kids will also enjoy many of the poems. Those videos feature simple readings by the poets in an outdoor setting. The posts also include written or video interviews with the poets and links to more information and extension activities.

• The new monthly Kids’ Classics series will include poems suitable for students from pre-K through high school, and will feature poets from A. A. Milne to Yeats. Many of those videos will be more performance oriented and delivered by various readers. The posts also include brief bios and links to more information about the poems and poets.

Language and literature appreciation. One of the goals of NWR is to instill the sense that poetry (and the poet!) is an approachable and friendly thing, not something to be feared or revered. Appreciation, then, could take the form of simply listening to and enjoying the poems and having informal conversations about how students relate or don’t relate to them. Sessions could eventually be enhanced with lessons on craft, literary devices, and the poet’s use of language, as well as with critiques on how the poet delivers the poem and discussions on where ideas for poems come from. For example, Children’s Poet Laureate J. Pat

12 Comments on Guest Post: Renée LaTulippe and No Water River, last added: 6/2/2012
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6. Step Gently Out, by Helen Frost and Rick Lieder (ages 4 - 9)

Were you the sort of child who would watch all sorts of animals buzz about the garden? I remember being mesmerized by humming birds, butterflies, spiders even roly-poly bugs. I just loved watching, observing, thinking about what these animals were doing. A beautiful new picture book, Step Gently Out, celebrates this moment for children - the wonder of watching animals, looking closely at their world and ours.

Step Gently Out
poem by Helen Frost
photographs by Rick Lieder
MA: Candlewick Press, 2012
ages 4 - 9
available from your local library, my favorite bookstore or on Amazon
Step outside, take some time to be still and just watch the world. Get down low to the ground or close to some plants, and you're sure to see tiny animals going about their business. Frost and Lieder have captured the wonder children experience as they notice these creatures.

Lieder's photography will be the first thing to grab children's attention. Each page brings the reader up close to an insect, as if you were right there crouching in the garden. The animals are caught in crisp, clear detail that will fascinate children. The colors in each photograph and the balance between sharply focused animals and soft backgrounds are stunningly beautiful. Moreover, Lieder's photographs perfectly interpret and complement Frost's poem. Just look at the beautiful title page - I love the color of the thistle this bee is perching on. The balance between the sharply focused animal and the soft background complements the text perfectly.

Frost begins by calling readers to step outside, take a moment from their busy day, and notice the world around them:
Step gently out,
be still,
and watch
a single blade
of grass.
Frost introduces animals children will be familiar with - an ant, a honeybee, a moth - and some that may be new to them - a firefly, a katydid, a damselfly. With each, Frost uses just a few words to capture its essence. Her poetry capture the magic of the moment and never overwhelms the young reader with its artistry. Frost manages to balance concrete details with just a few perfectly placed lyrical phrases.

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7. This week in publishing

This week saw an empty school library featured on the front page of The Australian along with two big announcements in digital development by Allen and Unwin and Momentum, Pan Macmillan’s digital only imprint.

Allen and Unwin has launched a new digital program.
The House of Books aims to bring Australia's cultural and literary heritage to a broad audience by creating affordable print and eBook editions of the nation’s most significant and enduring writers and their work. The fiction, non-fiction, plays and poetry of generations of Australian writers published before the advent of eBooks will now be available to new readers, alongside a selection of more recently published books that had fallen out of circulation.

Momentum announced it is to drop DRM on all titles to allow across the board accessibility. 

US author Madeline Miller has won the prestigious Orange prize for her debut book, The Song of Achilles. Bookscan revealed it was clearly the bestselling book on the shortlist since the announcemen

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8. What I Did at Kirkus Last Week,Plus Lots More Art from Other Books(Or: I Wish I Were at the Beach Right About Now…)

I can’t help myself. I’m sharing art from a handful of books today. Here are but some of the illustrations, and there are more after the “read the rest…” below:

– From Belle Yang’s Summertime Rainbow: A Bilingual Book of Colors
(Candlewick, April 2012)
(Click to enlarge spread)

– From Mini Grey’s Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey
(Knopf, May 2012)

(Click to enlarge)

– From Wong Herbert Yee’s Summer Days and Nights
(Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt, April 2012)

“Now that the ocean is calm again, I can float on the waves.
Look, I’m floating like a jelly fish!”
– From Kiyomi Konagaya’s
Beach Feet, illustrated by Masamitsu Saito
(Enchanted Lion Books, June 2012)

(Click to enlarge spread)

Endpapers from Kelly Ramsdell Fineman’s At the Boardwalk,
illustrated by Mónica Armiño
(Tiger Tales, 2012)

(Click to enlarge)

– From Kristy Dempsey’s Surfer Chick, illustrated by Henry Cole
(Abrams, May 2012)

– From Maria van Lieshout’s Backseat A-B-See
(Chronicle Books, April 2012)

Last week at Kirkus, I wrote (here) about Belle Yang’s two new bilingual board books for young children—Summertime Rainbow: A Bilingual Book of Colors
and A Nest in Springtime: A Bilingual Book of Numbers, both written in English and Mandarin Chinese—and today, as always, I’ve got a bit more art from each book.

But what I decided to throw into the mix

4 Comments on What I Did at Kirkus Last Week,Plus Lots More Art from Other Books(Or: I Wish I Were at the Beach Right About Now…), last added: 6/4/2012
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9. Free Fall Friday – Mellisa Sarver

Melissa Sarver, agent at Elizabeth Kaplan Literary Agency is our quest critiquer for May.  She is a graduate of Boston University and brings with her the experience she received by working with several agencies: Waxman Literary Agency, Brick House, and Imprint Agency (now FinePrint).

She looks for contemporary/realistic fiction, both literary and commercial; mysteries; urban fantasy; magical realism, and issue-based stories. She’s drawn to dark tales with brilliant prose and strong voice as well as quirky stories with a fresh sense of humor, and heartbreaking romances. She especially enjoys multicultural stories and similarly emotional stories with dystopian themes. She also considers Middle Grade fiction and Picture Books and you will meet here at the conference next weekend.

Melissa picked four first pages to read from what was submitted in May.  Here they are: 

Marty Preston

Untitled MG for the May 26th prompt.
I didn’t want to dress like a boy for Colonial Day, but I had no choice. Mom was working crazy hours, and couldn’t shop for my outfit until the night before. There was nothing left in my size at Old Navy─that’s where all my friends’ mothers bought colonial dresses for them. So I was stuck wearing soccer socks that I dyed with tea bags, a plain yellow pajama top, and my brother’s baseball pants, cinched at the waist and rolled up to my knees. In 90-degree heat.

“I’m sorry, sweetie. I blew it.” Mom shook her head, mad at herself, when I came downstairs the morning of Colonial Day in my makeshift get-up. “I should’ve ordered something online.”

“It’s okay.” I forced a smile. “It’ll all come together once I put the tricorne hat on at school.”   Of course, the hat would cover the colonial-esque hair ribbon, the only girl item I was wearing.

Things hadn’t been easy since Dad lost his job, so I kept my disappointment to myself. But the truth was, I really wanted one of those frilly white sundresses. Especially because my colonial family included Doug Hollis, the cutest boy in the seventh grade, at least in my opinion. (My best friend Jenna thought Ryan Tapler was the cutest.)

“That doesn’t look as bad as you made it sound.” Jenna whispered, when I took my seat next to hers in homeroom. She had on the exact dress I would’ve liked.

“I feel like a goofball,” I said. “I debated blowing off the theme. But I decided not to be  a party pooper.” Maybe I made the wrong decision. No other girls were dressed like boys.

After the flag salute, we shuffled outside.  First stop, mock trial. Jenna’s fat her played the judge, and her mother was the accused pig thief. “Guilty as charged! To the stocks!” Jenna’s dad said. Everyone laughed and we  lined up to have our photos taken in the pillory.

“Who’s the funny-looking boy in the stockade?” Tony Parisi said, in his usual snide tone.

“Shut up, Parisi,” Doug said. “Even in a boy outfit, Candace is pretty.”

My eyes widened. I planned to shout it from the rooftops later. Doug Hollis thinks I’m pretty.


I think this is a great introduction to a sweet middle grade novel filled with young romance but also dealing with some very real issues of unemployment and busy working parents trying to make ends meet.  The main character deals with some of these issues in an age-appropriate way by being honestly disappointed but not overly bratty or immature in response.  I’m not sure the dialog works in all places: “blowing off t

1 Comments on Free Fall Friday – Mellisa Sarver, last added: 6/1/2012
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10. Chicks Still Rule

A goooood while ago I had an idea for a little shop. So I opened one on Etsy to reserve the name. Recently I have begun adding items. Listed these flat notecards in my shop tonight. You know, when I first drew this queenly chick I wasn't fond of her. But I'm glad I went ahead and finished the painting, at the urging of my sweet daughter (a.k.a. giver of opinions, approval of all final art, spelling expert) because she's become one of my favorite designs. Plus, well, she speaks the truth. Chicks do rule.

2 Comments on Chicks Still Rule, last added: 6/1/2012
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11. Hatty's Midnight Yard - Cathy Butler

When I was growing up in the ‘60s and ‘70s, most of the children’s books I loved were set in the countryside, in villages or (at most) in small towns like the one where I lived. Yes, there were books set in cities too, but they tended to be the depressing, gritty realist ones, and I wanted adventure - and especially magical adventure. Magic, it seemed, was dispelled by petrol fumes.

There’s a long tradition dictating that the countryside is the natural home of both children and magic, no matter how few children actually live there. Maybe it goes back to Rousseau? Not only that, but in many of the classic books from my childhood there’s a gloomy sense that both magic and countryside are under threat from the creeping spread of urbanization, concreting over our imaginations and surrounding them with chain-linked fences and razor wire.

Philippa Pearce’s Tom’s Midnight Garden (1958) is a good example. In that book, young Tom Long, staying with his childless uncle and aunt in a pokey flat with no garden, finds that he is able each midnight to travel back in time to a period some 70 years earlier, when the flat was part of a grand house, and what is now a back yard containing nothing more than a car on bricks was part of an idyllic garden backing onto fields and a river. There he is able to pass his days (or rather nights) playing happily with the garden's Victorian inhabitant, a girl called Hatty.

It’s a wonderful book, but like many others of that time it’s built on the assumption that the rural past is interesting, luxuriant, and beautiful, while the urban present is dull, sterile and ugly, and likely to become more so. And that, for a child destined to spend most of her life in the future and probably in a city too, was a depressing conclusion.

Things have changed a bit. Since the 1970s a genre of urban fantasy has appeared, written by people as diverse as Michael de Larrabeiti (whose Borriblesseries were a pre-Punk answer to the Wombles), Diana Wynne Jones, and more recently China Miéville and ABBA’s own Elen Caldecott. It turns out that, like foxes, magic can live quite happily in cities after all. All the same, I want to do something to put the record straight for my younger self. So here, with some small adjustments, is a passage from my rewriting of Tom’s Midnight Garden.

9 Comments on Hatty's Midnight Yard - Cathy Butler, last added: 6/2/2012
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12. Sports and Culture and Handball

There’s nothing like the Olympics to get me thinking about the promise and possibility of sports. In an Olympic year, heartwarming stories about athletes who overcame poverty and political oppression temporarily supplant reports of those who commit crimes or suffer debilitating effects from head trauma experienced on the playing field. We see how sports can transform men and women, how they can lift up entire countries and even cause warring nations to cease hostilities, at least for a fortnight. Yes, there are always some bad apples who use performance enhancing drugs or otherwise cheat to get an edge, but they can’t undermine the general feeling of good will that’s in the air.

Perhaps it’s the prospect of this summer’s Olympics that has got me thinking lately about the interrelationship of sports and culture. That, plus a conversation I had with my father last weekend. He was telling me about his recent communication with Denton Cooley, the celebrated heart surgeon who was a classmate of his at the University of Texas. My dad used to play basketball with Cooley, and a few weeks ago they exchanged e-mails about that. My father admitted that he loved basketball when he was younger, but what he loved to play even more was handball.

How did I never know that? I knew that my dad had played basketball as a kid, and softball and tennis later in life, but I don’t think he ever mentioned handball. Still, it makes perfect sense. Handball, played as singles or doubles, was popular when my dad was growing up in the Depression because the only equipment it required was a hard rubber ball. (Some players also wore gloves, and my dad still had his pair readily available—see below—some 70 years after he last used them.) Players took turns hitting the ball against a wall, trying to make shots that their opponents could not return. Much of the handball on the East Coast was played against one wall, but there were other varieties, including a four-wall version that was like racquetball without racquets. Sometimes called American handball, this is different than the Olympic sport of team handball, which involves two teams trying to throw a ball into their opponents’ goal.
American handball was extremely popular among urban Jewish kids like my father, and in fact many of the early champions were Jewish. Vic Hershkowitz, a New York City firefighter, dominated the sport in the 1940s and 1950s, winning 40 national and international titles. Bronx-born Paul Haber, son of handball champ Sam Haber, reached the top of the sport in the 1960s and 1970s, winning five four-wall national championships from 1966 through 1971. Never one to be accused of modesty, the hard-playing, hard-living Haber called himself “the Greatest Jewish Athlete in the World.” There also were noteworthy female players in the U.S. and abroad, including Germany’s Lilli Henoch, who led the Berlin Sports Club and twice won the Berlin Championship of Jewish Handball Players befor

3 Comments on Sports and Culture and Handball, last added: 6/3/2012
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13. Win the ARC of Surrender by Elana Johnson

I was very fortunate to receive an ARC of Elana Johnson's latest book, SURRENDER. This is the non-stop action packed sequel to POSSESSION.

Here's the blurb from Amazon:

Forbidden love, intoxicating power, and the terror of control…
Raine has always been a good girl. She lives by the rules in Freedom. After all, they are her father’s rules: He’s the Director. It’s because of him that Raine is willing to use her talent—a power so dangerous, no one else is allowed to know about it. Not even her roommate, Vi.

All of that changes when Raine falls for Gunner. Raine’s got every reason in the world to stay away from Gunn, but she just can’t. Especially when she discovers his connection to Vi’s boyfriend, Zenn.

Raine has never known anyone as heavily brainwashed as Vi. Raine’s father expects her to spy on Vi and report back to him. But Raine is beginning to wonder what Vi knows that her father is so anxious to keep hidden, and what might happen if she helps Vi remember it. She’s even starting to suspect Vi’s secrets might involve Freedom’s newest prisoner, the rebel Jag Barque….

Before I even opened the book, I couldn't help fall in love with the cover. It has such powerful imagery. The colors and simplicity of it captivated me.

And as I opened the cover and allowed myself to be immersed in Elana's world, I found the writing to not disappoint.

What I love about this book: Wow. What to choose? I'd have to say the action. There wasn't a dull moment here and I found the pages flew beneath my fingertips.

What makes this book unique: The technology. Elana's mind blows mine. Where does she come up with this kind of stuff? E-boards, enhancements, hoverboards, spiders, and caches. She takes superhero qualities and mixes them with modern technology to create a unique world.

Why should you read it? The struggle. I found Raine's struggle to be free from her father's control, yet needing to find purpose in her world an excellent pull. Raine is a character a reader can identify with. It's refreshing how she deals with her struggle instead of just relying on a cute boy. She's strong and independent, yet she knows when to seek help from her friends.

Favorite lines:

"Can you brainwash me?" the Director asked.
"I believe I can, sir."
14 Comments on Win the ARC of Surrender by Elana Johnson, last added: 6/4/2012
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14. Texas Lions Camp & Pearle’s Story

Beverly Hutton & Amanda M. Thrasher

Beverly Hutton & Amanda M. Thrasher

Life is odd at times! I speak to many children, all ages, and often to groups of adults, mostly aspiring writers. During my time with them I always share things that I personally believe, and as writer/author know to be true: Write a story that you love first and someone else will likely like it. That’s where it all starts,” and “When you write a story, you never know who your going to touch!” Such is with ‘Mischief in the Mushroom Patch.’

My mom loved fairies, I wrote her a fairy story, but she never saw it in print. She was incredibly ill, read the first seven chapters, and I had to tell her how the story would end since I hadn’t finished it. She made me promise to send in my work, for my children, and in order to honor her request I did. The book was launched at my local Barnes & Noble a year after my mom’s death.

During that signing, a lady bought one of my books. A couple of weeks later she contacted me via email. She introduced herself and said she had read and enjoyed my book, and she went on to say that her daughter would have loved it, too. At the end of her beautiful email she made a request, a suggestion, if you will. She said, “Amanda if I may ask, could you possibly create a character with a disability? My daughter was in a wheelchair and I wasn’t supposed to have her for very long. I was blessed with her for longer than I thought but she always asked me, ‘where is the fairy tale with characters like me?’ She would have loved this book and so would the children from the camps she used to attend” (Texas Lions Camp). I still have the email.

I thought about that email before I replied, because it had touched me so. I emailed her back with these words, “If you give me just a minute to think, I may be able to do that, but I’m going to need a minute to think.” I had two major concerns. First and foremost I had to be respectful of her request, and the mushroom patch and its characters were already in place. I did however manage to create and introduce the most beautiful little fairy you can imagine, Pearle, and she’s perfect.

Though Pearle is bound to a wheel chair, I refer to it throughout the story as her chariot. Though the reader knows she has no use of her legs, there’s no need to really discuss it, yet it is always understood. All of the fairies love and accept her as is; but more importantly she is comfortable and loves herself, too. Her gift is to fly effortlessly when she is free to do so, which is the perfect trade off. She never complains and is happy all the time, because she knows no other way to be. Fairies dive into her lap and she gives them rides to the bathing room, and often plays her favorite game, make a fairling green. This game entails spinning as fast as she can in her chariot while the other fairies try to stay aboard, desperately trying not to turn that shade. I found out that Jeni used to play such games.

I sent sample chapters to the lady and said, “Meet Pearle; she is beautiful and perfect and everyone loves her. If you approve I will continue.” Beverly Hutton, Jeni’s mom, loved Pearle, and I finished the book. Since that time, me and Beverly, have visited the Scottish Rite Hospital, The Texas Pythian Home, we’ve participated in fundraisers, and June 19th, we

0 Comments on Texas Lions Camp & Pearle’s Story as of 5/31/2012 10:59:00 PM
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15. Project 11 of 365


Tonight, I decided to dabble in digital collage. I experimented with using contrasting colors for my shadows and highlights...in this case green for the shadows and yellow for the highlights. I couldn't get away from my usual black and white entirely and used these colors sparingly to punch up certain areas.

Tomorrow, I will go back and add my usual black shadows and white highlights so I can see the difference more clearly.

2 Comments on Project 11 of 365, last added: 6/4/2012
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16. The Nation on Amazon.com

       The new issue of The Nation has three articles on Amazon.com:

        • Michael Naumann explains How Germany Keeps Amazon at Bay and Literary Culture Alive -- noting that:

In Germany, approximately 90,000 new books are published each year, which per capita is about four times as many as in the United States. Among the new books of 2010 were 11,349 translations, including 6,993 English-language titles. Additionally, average book prices in Germany are the lowest in Europe, with the possible exception of Iceland and Finland. This ignominious "cartel" seems to be working to the advantage of readers, publishers, bookstores and authors, especially those who cannot expect total sales of more than 3,000 copies.
       It's interesting to learn that, however:
One outcome of the fixed-price law has been the growth of a new online market for used books: approximately 100,000 titles are now available. The flourishing of this market is a clear indication that the backlist business of German publishing has declined dramatically since the passage of the fixed-price law. Whereas in the 1980s the backlist accounted for nearly 30 percent of the sales for hardcover books, today that share has fallen to 5 percent.
        • Steve Wasserman on The Amazon Effect, a fine overview of how Amazon has changed over the years and some of the dangers it might pose.
       Lots of good stuff here -- though I'm not sure I'd go as far as he does in claiming:
But as Amazon's six other publishing imprints (Montlake Romance, AmazonCrossing, Thomas & Mercer, 47North, Amazon Encore, The Domino Project) have discovered, in certain genres (romance, science fiction and fantasy) formerly relegated to the moribund mass-market paperback, readers care not a whit about cover design or even good writing, and have no attachment at all to the book as object. Like addicts, they just want their fix at the lowest possible price, and Amazon is happy to be their online dealer.
       Not sure he put this the best way either:
More worrisome, at least over the long term, is the success of Amazon's Kindle Single program, an effort to encourage writers to make an end run around publishers, not only of books but of magazines as well. [...] Royalties are direct-deposited monthly, and authors can check their sales anytime -- a level of efficiency and transparency almost unknown at traditional publishers and magazines.
       I, for one, think 'traditional' publishers could do with a good (indeed, massive -- or, indeed, any) dose of efficiency and transparency, and at least in these areas surely the Amazon-nudge is only to be welcomed (except, of course, by the publishers, who prefer to do things the old, old, old-fashioned way).

        • Anthony Grafton complains that Search Gets Lost -- a modestly interesting case study.

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17. Read Russia 2012

       The Russians are trying hard to make a case for their fiction in the US, and Read Russia 2012, which runs 2 to 7 June in New York (overlapping with BookExpo America, but also including many events separate from it), certainly looks like a great way to learn about it.
       With only 18 (not previously translated) titles of fiction and poetry published in the US in 2011 (according to the Translation Database at Three Percent) there's certainly room for a lot more to be made available -- and Read Russia offers many promising-sounding events, covering many facets of contemporary Russian literature, so maybe this will help get some more translations commissioned.

       (Obviously, there's a lot of work to be done: I've reviewed three originally-written-in-Russian titles at the complete review so far in 2012 -- but none really qualifies as a very new work: yes, Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky's The Letter Killers Club is new-in-English but dates from the 1920s; Andrey Kurkov's The Case of the General's Thumb is new-to-the-US, but this translation was published in the UK in 2003; and the Strugatsky's Roadside Picnic is a 2012 translation -- but of a 1972 work previously translated into and published in English in 1977. Not exactly cutting edge stuff.)

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18. Science Fiction and Fantasy Translation Awards finalists

       I'm reminded by Arabic Literature (in English)'s mention that they've announced the finalists for the 2012 Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Awards -- and two of the 'long form' finalists are under review at the complete review: Utopia by Ahmed Khaled Towfik and Zero and Other Fictions by Huang Fan. (I haven't seen the others, sigh.)
       The winners will be announced 21 or 22 July.

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19. Book List: Ghost Stories

In celebration of the Fright Night Event (held in Queens hall last night), we thought perhaps today’s theme should be all about the creepy crawly feeling you get at the back of your neck.

A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb.

A Certain Slant of Light is one of those affecting ghost stories that comes all from the writing. Whitcomb is a superior writer. She is able to create tension, drama and that ‘freaked out’ factor by having the freaky things (ghosts) be the terrified party of the sinister and unknown force. There is also a morality factor that plays into the novel, when Helen decides to ‘take over a body’. You feel everything Helen is feeling; he desperation to touch and be touched, warring with her belief that she may have extinguished the body’s soul.

Part thriller, part mystery, part romance, this is at the high end of YA. The ghosts are early 20 year olds who in habit the body of teenagers, so I would recommend airing on the side of caution and recommending this to your older teens.

Five Parts Dead by Tim Pegler.

Dan is recovering from a horrific car accident that killed four of his friends and questioning why he survives. You see, this isn’t Dan’s first brush with death. He’s had five. Stuck on a remote island for the summer, things start to get a little weird for Dan. What really sets you on edge in this story is knowing how much research went into the book… and, therefore, how much of it is true.

Text Publishing

The Darkest Power Trilogy by Kelley Armstrong.

Probably my favourite YA urban fantasy ever. It’s really hard to find good urban fantasy (especially now), so this series is an absolute must for any of your paranormal readers. Chloe is a necromancer. Seeing dead people everywhere, as necromancers do, sends her a one way ticket to a ‘home for troubled teens’. That’s when things start to get really weird and really creepy. The first book is a little light on the romance (for your paranormal romance readers), but encourage them to persevere because the by the second book we have a love square! It’s wacky, scaring, funny and full of action. It’s also an ensemble cast: werewolves, witches and necromancers are just the beginning.


The Mediator Series by Meg Cabot.

The great thing with Meg Cabot is you always know exactly what you’re going to get. Lots of witty dialogue, a few very awesome protagonists and a couple of hot boys.

Dark and creepy ghost story this isn’t. Fun and flirty it is.

Pan Ma

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20. Top 100 Picture Books #31: Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey

#31 Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey (1948)
54 points

It’s hard to pick a favorite McCloskey, but I think of this one every time I pick blueberries. – Jessalyn Gale

Honestly, I think my favorite part as a kid was just staring at the endpapers with the scene of Sal and her mom in the kitchen, noticing all the details. This is a hangover favorite from childhood that I really can’t otherwise think to say what’s so great about it except that I always loved it. - Amy M. Weir

I was speaking with a fellow librarian the other day about a classic children’s book (which shall remain nameless) that both of us missed in our youth.  Our response to it was not overwhelmingly positive, and we figured that had to be because we “missed it”.  Now I don’t remember reading Blueberries for Sal as a kid, but I don’t think it’s possible to “miss” the appeal of this one.  Brooke and Amy have already pinpointed the two major reasons why:  Blueberry picking is the ultimate child sport, and any author/illustrator who can make blue ink continually compelling must be some kind of genius.  I’ve heard theories that speculate that part of the charm of this book also lies in the boy/girl nature of Sal.  She/He walks about in those gender neutral overalls and long, but not too long, hair.  We associate the name “Sal” with “Sally”, but it could just as easily be a nickname for “Salvador” and the like.  It’s a theory anyway.

The Amazon summary of the plot reads, “Kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk go the blueberries into the pail of a little girl named Sal who–try as she might–just can’t seem to pick as fast as she eats. Robert McCloskey’s classic is a magical tale of the irrepressible curiosity–not to mention appetite–of youth. Sal and her mother set off in search of blueberries for the winter at the same time as a mother bear and her cub. A quiet comedy of errors ensues when the young ones wander off and absentmindedly trail the wrong mothers.”

Minders of Make-Believe has a section on McCloskey that sums the man up pretty well.  “As May Massee’s protege and the son-in-law of Newbery Medal winner Ruth Sawyer, McCloskey, his genuinely modest midwestern manner notwithstanding, was as close to being picture-book royalty as it was possible to come.” And Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History from Aesop to Harry Potter by Seth Lerer offers this consideration of the book: “Blueberries for Sal shows how we select the sweetness in the world and how adventure – little Sal confronted with a baby bear – can resolve itself through taste.”  Lerer then goes on to say that, in a sense, this book had a sequel.  “In One Morning in Maine, Sal has grown to an age when she can lose a tooth – and lose it she does, as she and her family go clam-digging.”  Huh.  I had no idea.  I’ve even read and enjoyed One Morning in Maine, but the name “Sal” never quite struck my notice.

Blueberries for Sal made the news not too long ago when it was discovered that book, against all logic and reason, was out of print.  In the April 9, 2009 Publishers Weekly article The Return of ‘Blueberries for Sal’, however, the entire situation was explained and resolved.  You see the McCloskey estate wanted to renegotiate the rights and when an immediate solution wasn’t availabl

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21. Top 100 Picture Books #32: The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton

#32 The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton (1942)
53 points

I love this story and sometimes can’t get through it without crying. - Laurie Zaepfel

I just loved this story when I was younger. I still do. You learn about the seasons, pollution, the difference between rural and urban. And the artwork – love it! – Alexandra Eichel

because it’s an economically designed tale of change, entropy, and survival. – Philip Nel

Phil may be on to something with that. I feel that the status of Virginia Lee Burton’s two best known picture books, this and Mike Mulligan’s Steam Shovel, have experienced a change in status over the years. Mike Mulligan could be considered far more of a household name. After all he plays a big role in one of the Ramona books (or, at the very least, his personal needs do). The last time we conducted this poll, though, he ended up at #40 with The Little House at #25. Now . . . well, I’ll give it to you straight. Only three people voted for Mike this time around and none of them called him #1.  I mean, if you had sat me down, placed The Little House and Mike Mulligan in front of me side-by-side, and asked me to pick which one of the two would make it into the Top 25, the answer would have been Mike all that way.  I love me my Little House but certainly when I was growing up Mr. Mulligan had the most sway.  After all, 100 Best Books for Children says that of all her books, Ms. Burton’s, “greatest contribution to the American landscape remains the saga of Mary Anne and Mike Mulligan.”  Not anymore, it seems.  Certainly when one takes into account the current housing crises and the various dilapidated and forgotten homes around the country, the tale of The Little House has a lot more to say to us than that of a guy building a basement.  Plus it has the extra added advantage of featuring a house that’s just as depressed about its situation as its occupants would be.

The plot from my review: “Long ago a little house was built in the country. The man who built her decided that this house, special as it was, could never be bought and sold. Instead, he planned on leaving it to his children, his children’s children, and his children’s children’s children. Etc. The house was pleased with the arrangement. It watched the seasons go by. It watched the children that played in it grow up and move away. It even watched the changing fashions and modes of transportation. Horse and buggies one day, automobiles the next. This is all well and good until a new asphalt road appears. Suddenly it’s a heckuva lot easier for people to reach the area in which the little house lives. Things get faster and suddenly the little house is surrounded by tenement houses. Then there are trolley cars (oh the trolley cars). Next comes elevated trains, and subways, and (worst of all) gigantic skyscrapers on either side of the now seriously dilapidated little house. One day, a descendent of the original owner sees the house and inquires after it. Since it turns out she owns it (I guess… the book’s a little shaky on the legal aspects of ownership at this point) the house is summarily picked up by movers and taken to the country she loves so much. Happy house. Happy family. The end.”

Just prior to writing Th

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22. Top 100 Picture Books #33: The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

#33 The Lorax by Dr. Seuss (1971)
53 points

A timeless classic. I haven’t seen the movie, and I don’t plan to; it’s one of those cases in which the book is perfect just as it is. – Melissa Fox

because “UNLESS someone like you / cares a whole awful lot, / nothing is going to get better. / It’s not.” - Philip Nel

Previously #83 our little Lorax take an almighty leap and goes up fifty places to #33.  Undoubtedly the film helped to give him a bit of a push.  That’s the way a list like this works sometimes.  Classics with recent tie-ins move up faster because of their new status.  So here he is, ladies and gentlemen!  The little guy who starred in a made-for-TV movie that I saw when I was eight and have been effectively traumatized by ever since.  If I’m a good environmentalist, it’s because The Lorax made me so.  Violently.

Basic plot:  The Once-ler moves to town, takes advantage of all the natural resources he can get his grubby hands on (and the guy is mostly hands) and ignores the pleas of The Lorax to stop before it’s too late.  Too late it becomes and The Lorax takes off for greener pastures.  Hope then resides in a small boy and the single seed of a Truffula Tree that The Once-ler has saved in spite of everything.

Said School Library Journal, “The big, colorful pictures and the fun images, word plays and rhymes make this an amusing exposition of the ecology crisis.”

So the recent movie . . . I haven’t seen it myself, though I was a little perturbed that none of the commercials showed anything closely resembling pollution in them.  Even more disturbing?  A commercial that may well be remembered as the most ironic children’s literature/movie tie-in of all time.

I hate to say it, but give me that old creepy hand drawn version any day of the week.

And I’d show you the pretty Lorax statue but . . . well . . .

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23. Top 100 Picture Books #34: Strega Nona by Tomie de Paola

#34 Strega Nona by Tomie de Paola (1975)
51 points

I must have a thing for bowls that duplicate stuff. Strega Nona in many ways mirrors the 4th title on this list, The Full Belly Bowl. But unlike Aylesworth’s book, Strega Nona focuses on humor to get its point across. dePaola’s 1979 classic takes an original tale and makes it feel timeless – no small feat. – Travis Jonker

I was working the Reference Desk one day when a small blond boy knee-high to a butterfly came up to me.  He wanted me to find a book for him and I said I’d try.  What was it about?  “There’s a woman with a white hat but she’s NOT a Pilgrim,” he told me thoroughly.  Apparently he had encountered the pilgrim problem before.  “And there’s baby Jesus and a donkey and a baker’s son.”  Uh-oh.  This was not sounding too familiar.  A Befana story, maybe?  But where does the baker’s son come in?  “Uh.. is there anything else you remember?” I asked, not hoping for much.  He screwed up his little face then said, “There’s a pot and it has magic spaghetti in it . . . .” Say no more!  I made a jackrabbit-like leap to the shelves and pulled off Strega Nona as fast as I could.  Baby Jesus and donkey aside, it was exactly the book he was looking for.  And why not?  Strega Nona is my own personal favorite of the Tomie de Paola oeuvre.  The telling, the pictures, the way it all comes together . . . it comes as close to being a perfect picture book as anyone could hope to find.

From my old review: “Strega Nona lives by her lonesome in a small cottage in Calabria, Italy. A witch by trade, she cures the townspeople of their ailments, warts, and headaches. When Big Anthony is hired on as Strega Nona’s servant she gives him very strict instructions on what he is required to do, and what is forbidden. Quoth Strega Nona, ‘The one thing you must never do is touch the pasta pot’. You see where this is going. After watching the witch conjure delicious cooked pasta fully formed from the pot, Anthony is eager to show this miracle himself to the people of the town. When Strega Nona leaves on a trip, Anthony speaks her spell and feeds everyone in the vicinity delicious, piping hot pasta. Unfortunately, Anthony didn’t quite catch the trick to making the pasta stop flowing. As the villagers attempt to prevent the growing threat from destroying their town, Strega Nona arrives just in time to put everything right again. Anthony receives a just comeuppance and all is well in the world.”

Apropos of nothing, I always thought that Big Anthony was kinda cute.  This is why I’ve been careful to avoid marrying any picture book characters.  I have terrible taste in their men.

I highly recommend reading the Bottom Shelf Books look at this book, particularly the discussion of Streganomics.  And that reminds me… are you brave enough to discover the secrets lurking within  . . . The DePaola Code?

The New York Times Book Review said of it, “De Paola’s illustrations aptly capture the whimsy of this ancient tale… simple line drawings clearly reveal the agony and ecstasy of pasta power, the muted colors create just the right ambiance for a Medieval village.”

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24. Top 100 Picture Books #35: The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith

#35 The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith (1989)
51 points

I remember when this book was the hit of the third grade. Everyone passed it around and read it and we all were cracking up. Fractured fairy tales in the hands of the skilled Jon Scieszka makes for fun reading! – Sarah

Rocky and Bullwinkle would have been proud.  The fractured fairy tale is never so fractured as when it springs newborn from the mouth of the ultimate unreliable narrator.  Consider it the book that brought us our Scieszka and our Lane.  Though you might think that their Stinky Cheese Man would make it higher on the list, this is certainly not the case.

The synopsis from my old review: “As A. Wolf puts it, the whole thing was just a big misunderstanding. One of those events that get blown way out of proportion. See, it’s like this… the wolf was just looking to borrow a cup of sugar for his poor bed-ridden granny. He wanted to make a cake for her, but finding himself lacking the necessary ingredients he went to his nearest neighbor to borrow some. Now here’s where it all went higgledy-piggledy. The pig (living in a straw home) didn’t answer the door and the wolf had a bad cold. By pure bad luck he accidentally sneezed the home down and, in effect, killed the pig. Thinking it a bad idea to waste pork, the wolf ate the pig and decided to try another neighbor. And so it went until he got to the brick house and was shortly, thereafter, arrested. And all for the want of a cup of sugar.”

According to 100 Best Books for Children, Jon and Lane sort of did the thing you’re told not to do when creating a picture book.  Under normal circumstances you’re supposed to come in with your portfolio (if you’re an artist) or you text (if you’re an author) and the publisher pairs you up with somebody.  In this particular case, Smith and Scieszka met in a zoo (please hold all appropriate comments until I finish) and when Lane went in to show his portfolio to editor Regina Hayes he showed her Smith’s manuscript as well.  Batta bing, batta boom, instant fame, glory, and rocket ships to the moon.  As Scieszka himself said of the book in a Puffin interview, “Our first book, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs sold thirty bazillion copies in eight languages.”  Sounds ’bout right.

Fun Fact: The Norton Anthology of Children’s Literature gets the title of this book wrong.  No, really!  It does.  Check out page 875.  Granted it’s just the small goof of calling this The Story of the Three Little Pigs rather than The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, but I think the inclusion of the “True” in the title is necessary.  Nay!  Imperative.  They almost make up for the gaff by finishing his bio by saying, “critics have called Scieszka’s work ‘postmodern’  Children call it funny.”  Good save, Norton me pal.  We’ll let you off the hook this time.

  • Strangely enough you can read the full text here, if you’ve half a mind to.  Sans pictures, though.
  • Thinking about it, I saw Scieszka talk about this book briefly in a recent B&N video.  In it he says: “I get a lot of mail from Kindergartners.  Actually a lot of it addressed to A. Wolf saying, ‘Dear Mr. Wolf.  You were bad.  You should be in jail.’  Which I t

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25. Top 100 Picture Books #36: The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss

#36 The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss (1957)
50 points

Adore the story and it brought reading to an access level for beginning readers. - Mary Friedrichs

The poor cat didn’t make it onto the list last time because I wasn’t including easy readers.  Now he bursts onto the scene, hat askew, intentions questionable, lovable to his core.  Recently he’s been turned into an animated serious on television.  He’s appearing in countless easy nonfiction books.  He’s even slated for a new movie (see: the end of this post).

The plot as described by Anita Silvey’s 100 Best Books for Children reads, “The cat arrives one day to entertain two young children.  As the rhyme spins out of control, so do the antics of the mayhem-making cat, and chaos ensues.  But before Mother returns, the cat cleans up everything, leaving the children to ponder whether or not to tell her what happened.”

In terms of its creation, one of the best explanations I’ve found actually came from Cracked.com in an article discussing how Dr. Seuss had a tendency to write books as responses to dares.  As they so eloquently put it, “It started with a 1955 article by William Spaulding of Houghton Mifflin, called ‘Why Johnny Can’t Read’. Instead of taking the easy route (‘Because Johnny is stupid.’) Spaulding analyzed the state of reading material for young children and found it insufferably boring. Not only did nobody care about Dick and Jane throwing a ball, least of all small children with short attention spans, but the choice of words was haphazard – throwing in anything with one or two syllables instead of deliberately coming up with the most useful words to help kids learn. Spaulding hooked up with Seuss and challenged him with the novel idea of writing a book with an actual story kids would want to read. If that wasn’t crazy enough, he asked him to use a list of 300 words that they had come up with, targeted toward helping kids practice phonics. Seuss thought this was insane and was attempting to politely back out of it when he glanced at the list one more time and decided he’d make a title out of the first two rhyming words he saw. They were “cat” and “hat”. Nine months of frustrating work later, he had a book that was 1702 words long with only 220 unique words, telling an interesting story, introducing an unforgettable character, and completely written in anapestic dimeter.”

According to Silvey it wasn’t until the bookstore edition was published that the title made any waves at all.  Once it was discovered it managed to sell a MILLION copies in three years.

As I may have mentioned before, I’m a sucker for a good statue.  This pairing from the Dr. Seuss National Memorial at The Quadrangle in Springfield, Massachusetts fulfills my every need. So cool.

In 1971 they turned it into an animated film.  It’s a bit long but this doggone song, THIS DOGGONE SONG, will simply not leave my brain.  The ultimate earworm.  Watch it at your own risk.

I will spare you the horrendous produce-placement-strewn Mike Myers fiasco.  Are you happy or sad to hear 4 Comments on Top 100 Picture Books #36: The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss, last added: 6/2/2012

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