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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Jonathan Auxier, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Review of the Day: The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

NightGardener 203x300 Review of the Day: The Night Gardener by Jonathan AuxierThe Night Gardener
By Jonathan Auxier
Illustrated by Patrick Arrasmith
Amulet Books (an imprint of Abrams)
ISBN: 978-1-4197-1144-2
Ages 10 and up
On shelves May 20th

For whatever reason, 2014 is a dark year in children’s middle grade fiction. I speak from experience. Fantasy in particular has been steeped in a kind of thoughtful darkness, from The Glass Sentence and The Thickety to The Riverman and Twelve Minutes to Midnight with varying levels of success. And though none would contest the fact that they are creepy, only Jonathan Auxier’s The Night Gardener has had the chutzpah to actually write, “A Scary Story” on its title pages as a kind of thoughtful dare. A relatively new middle grade author, still young in the field, reading this book it’s hard to reconcile it with Auxier’s previous novel Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes. It is almost as if Mr. Auxier took his whimsy, pulled out a long sharp stick, and stabbed it repeatedly in the heart and left it to die in the snow so as to give us a sublimely horrific little novel. Long story short this novel is Little Shop of Horrors meets The Secret Garden. I hope I’m not giving too much away by saying that. Even if I am, I regret nothing. Here we have a book that ostensibly gives us an old-fashioned tale worthy of Edgar Allan Poe, but that steeps it in a serious and thought provoking discussion of the roles of both lies and stories when you’re facing difficulties in your life. Madcap brilliant.

Molly and Kip are driving a fish cart, pulled by a horse named Galileo, to their deaths. That’s what everyone’s been telling them anyway. Living without parents, Molly sees herself as her brother’s guardian and is intent upon finding a safe place for the both of them. When she’s hired to work as a servant at the mysterious Windsor estate she thinks the job might be too good to be true. Indeed, the place (located deep in something called “the sour woods”) is a decrepit old mansion falling apart at the seams. The locals avoid it and advise the kids to do so too. Things are even stranger inside. The people who live in the hollow home appear to be both pale and drawn. And it isn’t long before both Molly and Kip discover the mysterious night gardener, who enters the house unbidden every evening, tending to a tree that seems to have a life of its own. A tree that can grant you your heart’s desire if you would like. And all it wants in return? Nothing you’d ever miss. Just a piece of your soul.

For a time, the book this most reminded me of was M.P. Kozlowsky’s little known Juniper Berry, a title that could rival this one in terms of creepiness. Both books involve trees and wishes and souls tied into unlawful bargains with dark sources. There the similarities end, though. Auxier has crafted with undeniable care a book that dares to ask whether or not the things we wish for are the things best for us in the end. His storytelling works in large part too because he gives us a unique situation. Here we have two characters that are desperately trying to stay in an awful, dangerous situation by any means necessary. You sympathize with Molly’s dilemma at the start, but even though you’re fairly certain there’s something awful lurking beneath the surface of the manor, you find yourself rooting for her, really hoping that she gets the job of working there. It’s a strange sensation, this dual hope to both save the heroine and plunge her into deeper danger.

What really made The Night Gardener stand out for me, however, was that the point of the book (insofar as I could tell) was to establish storytelling vs. lies. At one point Molly thinks seriously about what the difference between the two might be. “Both lies and stories involved saying things that weren’t true, but somehow the lies inside the stories felt true.” She eventually comes to the conclusion that lies hurt people and stories help them, a statement that is met with agreement on the part of an old storyteller named Hester who follows the words up with, “But helps them to do what?” These thoughts are continued later when Molly considers further and says, “A story helps folks face the world, even when it frightens ‘em. And a lie does the opposite. It helps you hide.” Nuff said.

As I mentioned before, Auxier’s previous novel Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes was his original chapter book debut. As a devotee of Peter Pan and books of that ilk, it felt like more of an homage at times that a book that stood on its own two feet. In the case of The Night Gardener no such confusion remains. Auxier’s writing has grown some chest hair and put on some muscles. Consider, for example, a moment when Molly has woken up out of a bad dream to find a dead leaf in her hair. “Molly held it up against the window, letting the moonlight shine through its brittle skin. Tiny twisted veins branched out from the center stem – a tree inside a tree.” I love the simplicity of that. Particularly when you take into account the fact that the tree that created the leaf may not have been your usual benign sapling.

In the back of the book in his Author’s Note Auxier acknowledges his many influences when writing this. Everything from Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes to The Sketch-Book of Geoffrey Crayon Gent. by Washington Irving to Frances Hodgson Burnett’s simple only on the surface The Secret Garden. All these made sense to me (though I’m not familiar with the Irving yet) but I wondered if there were other ties out there as well. For example, the character of Hester, an old storyteller and junk woman, reminded me of nothing so much as the junk woman character in the Jim Henson film Labyrinth. A character that in that film also straddles the line between lies and stories and how lying to yourself only does you harm. Coincidence or influence? Only Mr. Auxier knows for sure.

If I am to have any kind of a problem with the book then perhaps it is with the Irish brogue. Not, I should say, that any American child is even going to notice it. Rather, it’ll be adults like myself that can’t help but see it and find it, ever so briefly, takes us out of the story. I don’t find it a huge impediment, but rather a pebble sized stumbling block, barely standing in the way of my full enjoyment of the piece.

In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J.K. Rowling offers some very good advice on dealing with uncertain magical beings. “Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain.” Would that our heroes in this book had been handed such advice early in life, but then I guess we wouldn’t have much of a story to go on, now would we? In the end, the book raises as many questions as it answers. Do we, as humans, have an innate fear of becoming beholden to the plants we tend? Was the villain of the piece’s greatest crime to wish away death? Maybe the Peter Pan influence still lingers in Mr. Auxier’s pen, but comes out in unexpected ways. This is the kind of book that would happen if Captain Hook, a man most afraid of the ticking of a clock, took up horticulture instead of piracy. But the questions about why we lie to ourselves and why we find comfort in stories are without a doubt the sections that push this book from mere Hammer horror to horror that makes you stop and think, even as you run like mad to escape the psychopaths on your heels. Smart and terrifying by turns, hand this book to the kid who supped of Coraline and came back to you demanding more. Sweet creepy stuff.

On shelves May 20th.

Source: Galley sent from publisher for review.

Like This? Then Try:

Professional Reviews: A star from Kirkus

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2 Comments on Review of the Day: The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier, last added: 3/13/2014
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2. Review: Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes

peternimble Review: Peter Nimble and His Fantastic EyesPeter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier

Review by Chris Singer

About the author:

Jonathan Auxier, raised in Canada, now lives with his wife in Los Angeles, where he works as a screenwriter. This is his first novel. You can visit him online at TheScop.com.

About the book (from the publisher):

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes is the utterly beguiling tale of a ten-year-old blind orphan who has been schooled in a life of thievery. One fateful afternoon, he steals a box from a mysterious traveling haberdasher—a box that contains three pairs of magical eyes. When he tries the first pair, he is instantly transported to a hidden island where he is presented with a special quest: to travel to the dangerous Vanished Kingdom and rescue a people in need. Along with his loyal sidekick—a knight who has been turned into an unfortunate combination of horse and cat—and the magic eyes, he embarks on an unforgettable, swashbuckling adventure to discover his true destiny.

Watch the trailer:

My take on the book:

I had two thoughts after finishing my reading of Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes. One, I can’t wait to tell my kidlit friends at the Corvallis Public Library about Peter Nimble, and two, Peter Nimble is going to be the first chapter book I read aloud to my daughter.

I was amazed to learn that Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes is Jonathan Auxier’s first book. It’s an absolutely fantastic and imaginative adventure story full of fantasy, mystery, suspense and lots of surprises sure to captivate middle readers.

I really enjoyed Auxier’s use of the 3rd person for his narrative, which will remind adult readers of Charles Dickens, Roald Dahl and C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series. I was thoroughly entertained by the witty narrator and the pacing of the story is just perfect. It’s not so fast-paced that you feel like you’re just glossing over the details and finer points of the story in order to hurry towards a triumphant conclusion; yet there’s not one slow moment in the plot that might bog down or discourage younger readers.

While the elements of fantasy will certainly captivate readers, I think it’s the characters which solidify this book’s place as an instant classic. Peter Nimble is the classic hero who comes from nothing to become something. Although blind and orphaned from almost birth, Peter has become the best thief in the world. For Peter, becoming a thief was about survival, and the only way to make the best out of his difficult life. Teachers and young readers can have terrific discussions about the moral implications and dilemmas presented by Peter’s characterization. Peter’s blindness is also a metaphor throughout the story for issues involving faith and

2 Comments on Review: Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, last added: 9/30/2011
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3. Review of the Day: Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes
By Jonathan Auxier
Amulet Books (an imprint of Abrams)
ISBN: 978-1-4197-0025-5
Ages 9-12
On shelves August 1st.

What is the most telling difference between those works of children’s literature written long ago and those written today? Pose this question to a room full of children’s librarians and I suspect that the answers would be myriad. Books today are less racist. They’re willing to push more boundaries. They’re smarter, hipper, less didactic, and so on and such. Pose the question to a room full of kids now. What do they answer? Would they even know where to begin? I wonder since the memorable children’s books of the past, the ones that we hold in our hearts and pass along from generation to generation have a quality that most children’s books today don’t bother to cultivate: timelessness. Of course there are as many bad books for kids that try to reach that golden goal as there are good ones. It is incredibly difficult to write a book for the youth of today that is interesting to them and yet manages to feel “timeless” without covering itself in must and dust. That Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes succeeds in this endeavor is a testament not only to its author but to a publishing world that’s willing to put out something that doesn’t slot into the usual five categories of books for youth.

Babies found floating in baskets usually turn out quite well. They get adopted by pharaohs’ daughters and the like, right? Well, that may be the case for some babies, but Peter Nimble isn’t exactly the lucky sort. Found floating in the sea, his eyes pecked out (presumably by the raven perched there), Peter is abandoned to the wilds of the world. On his own he manages to use his talents to become the world’s greatest thief. This talent is swiftly exploited by the nasty Mr. Seamus who makes Peter steal for him. All seems bleak until the day Peter stops to listen to a crazy haberdasher who has come to town. Next thing he knows, Peter has pilfered a box containing three pairs of magical eyes and in accepting them he allows himself to take part in a marvelous, epic adventure.

A difficulty with writing a story from the perspective of a blind protagonist is that you’re limited to that person’s senses. Or rather, you would be if the book was first person. Auxier sets his tale in the third, leaving the reader to decide whether or not the book should be this deftly described. We’re still with Peter every step of the way, after all. So is it fair that the text should show such a visual world when that is not Peter’s experience? I don’t find it much of a problem myself, though I can see how some folks would deem it strange. Yet the third person narration is the key here. It’s not even particularly intrusive.

The book is also dotted with small pen-and-ink illustrations throughout the text (created by the author himself, no less) that serve to show a bit of what is described to Peter. It is interesting to see what Auxier chooses to show and not to show. For example, the kitten/horse/knight that is his companion Sir Tode is never fully seen in any of the pictures in this book except for the odd rear view. So it is that Auxier uses his art to give readers just a hint of the story. He leaves most of the characters and situations up to child imaginations, though.

He also has his influences. Jonathan Auxier doesn’t love 0 Comments on Review of the Day: Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier as of 1/1/1900

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4. The Evolution of Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes Jacket

About the book

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes is the utterly beguiling tale of a ten-year-old blind orphan who has been schooled in a life of thievery. One fateful afternoon, he steals a box from a mysterious traveling haberdasher—a box that contains three pairs of magical eyes. When he tries the first pair, he is instantly transported to a hidden island where he is presented with a special quest: to travel to the dangerous Vanished Kingdom and rescue a people in need. Along with his loyal sidekick—a knight who has been turned into an unfortunate combination of horse and cat—and the magic eyes, he embarks on an unforgettable, swashbuckling adventure to discover his true destiny

After reading the first chapter of Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes I knew it was special.
It hooked me right away. For example.
6 Comments on The Evolution of Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes Jacket, last added: 8/11/2011
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5. Video Sunday: Weirdly supple crystal balls

Oh good.

Now we have a rallying cry. Bonus.  Thanks to Maureen Johnson for the link.

Travis at 100 Scope Notes recently discovered the author video cache to beat all author video caches.  As he puts it”I challenge you to a good ol’ fashioned game of ‘I Bet I Can Find a Video Interview of An Author You Like’.”  Apparently Reading Rockets has done everything in its power to videotape many of the major power players out there.  Your Selznicks.  Your McKissacks.  Your Yolens.  There’s a Website and a YouTube channel so take your pick!  Talk about a useful resource.

Of course, if you want to save yourself some time and trouble you can just watch this trailer for The Chronicles of Harris Burdick.  But make sure you watch it until the end.

I could live a long and happy life in the belief that Chris Van Allsburg was some kind of a criminal mastermind.  Yup.

Do all the classic children’s authors also know how to draw?  I only ask because it keeps coming up.  Tolkien drew.  J.K. Rowling can draw.  Now apparently Philip Pullman does too.  Extraordinary.

A couple thoughts on this next one.

A: Check out those guns on Katie Davis!  Wowza!

B: Yes, folks, we all know that Tuck Everlasting didn’t win a Newbery. It’s okay.

C: When I start a band I am totally calling it Weirdly Supple Crystal Ball.

Book trailer time! This one comes to us courtesy of Jonathan Auxier.  He’s even gone so far as to write a post about the Five Things I Learned from Making My Own Book Trailer.  The piece is fascinating in and of itself.  The final product?  I’d say it’s worth it.

Sort of reminds me of last year’s Adam Gidwitz 6 Comments on Video Sunday: Weirdly supple crystal balls, last added: 9/12/2011

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6. Fusenews: “Peppa Pig is likely to fall into American hands”

SLJ represent!  Though I could not attend this year’s KidLitCon (the annual conference of children’s and YA bloggers) many others did and they have all posted links to their recaps of the event here.  So while I could not be present, fellow SLJ blogger Liz Burns of Tea Cozy showed up and has a fabulous encapsulation of that which went on.  Lest you label me a lazy lou, I did at least participate in a presentation on apps.  Yes, doing my best Max Headroom imitation (ask you parents, kids) I joined Mary Ann Scheuer and pink haired Paula Wiley.  It went, oddly enough, off without a hitch.  Attendees may have noticed my gigantic floating head (we Skyped) would occasionally dip down so that I seemed to be doing my best Kilroy imitation.  This was because the talk happened during my lunch and I wanted to nosh on some surreptitious grapes as it occurred.  You may read Mary Ann’s recap here and Paula’s here, lest you fail to believe a single word I say.

  • Speaking of Penderwicks, the discussions fly fast and fierce over at Heavy Medal.  To my infinite delight, both Jonathan AND Nina are Penderwick fans.  Wow!  For the record, I agree with their thoughts on Amelia Lost as well.  That book has a better chance at something Newberyish than any other nonfiction this year.  This could well be The Year of Amelias (Jenni Holm has an Amelia book of her own, after all).
  • Heads up, America!  According to an article in The Guardian, “The debt-laden businesses behind some of the biggest names in childrens’ TV and books are selling off some of the nation’s best-loved characters.”  Personally, I figure the Brits can keep their Peppa Pig.  It’s Bagpuss I want.  Or The Clangers.  I grew up watching Pinwheel on Nickelodeon so I’ve an affection for these.  Any word on the current state of King Rollo?
  • Aw yeah.  Authors talking smack about authors.  Granted it’s living authors talking about dead authors (dead authors talking about living authors is a different ballgame entirely) but it’ll stand.  Two dude who write for kids break down J.M. Barrie, The Yearling, etc. and then end with unanimous praise for what I may consider the world’s most perfect children’s book.  Go check ‘em out.
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7. Fusenews: As one does

I am writing this post today around 9 p.m. on Sunday.  As such, many of you will read this, knowing full well who the Newbery and Caldecott winners are.  I will be a little behind you in this respect.  Amusingly, I realized too late that I scheduled my latest sonogram for the PRECISE moment the ALA Media Awards will be announced.  I blame time zones.  Or, rather, my apparent lack of understanding about time zones.  So just picture me on the doctor’s table, Android phone in hand, watching the Twitter updates scroll past.  That’s priorities for you, eh?

  • Speaking of Caldecotts and Newberys (I always come this close to writing “Newberies”), Elizabeth Bluemle over at ShelfTalker recently figured out how many men vs. women win those two awards.  In short, boys get lots of Caldecotts, girls get lots of Newberys.  Harold Underdown points out in the comments that when he did similar research ten years ago he pretty much got the same results.  The more things change, the more things stay the same.  For her part, Kyra Hicks at Black Threads in Kid’s Lit calculated similar stats a year ago for male to female winners of the Coretta Scott King Award.  She’ll have to update those stats after today, of course.  Fingers crossed for Rita Williams-Garcia (I want her to win everything).
  • I was talking with an author the other day about the books that I’m working on.  Infinitely lucky, I’m publishing books with two of my favorite companies/imprints: Greenwillow of Harper Collins and Candlewick.  When I mentioned this and that I was trying to get all my favorites under my belt (I’m eyeing you hungrily, Chronicle) they replied, “Ah.  How about Abrams?”  Well, I’ve been very impressed with Abrams over the last two to three years, and not just because they know how to raise a Wimpy Kid.  They just do good work.  So it was with great pleasure that I learned that one of my husband’s fellow screenwriters, Jonathan Auxier, has a book with Abrams due later this year in the fall called Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes.  Keep that title in your brain for a while and check out Jonathan’s new blog The Scop if you’ve a chance to do so.
  • Yes my husband Matt is a screenwriter and he sports a jaunty blog of his own called Cockeyed Caravan.  From time to time he’ll allow friends and folks in the field to write posts there with their own cinematic recommendations.  Not too long ago our best buddy Geoff went on with his own, and danged if one of films he came up with wasn’t Sounder, based on the 1970 Newbery Award winning novel by William H. Armstrong.  I swear he didn’t do that film for me, as (I’m ashamed to admit) I’ve never seen it.  I want to now, though.  A nice continuation of our Newbery themed day, eh?
  • Hey, do you remember a couple months ago when I asked you guys to mention any books about Afr

    7 Comments on Fusenews: As one does, last added: 1/11/2011
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8. Coming soon!

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9. Fusenews: Love to eat them mousies. Mousies what I love to eat.

I feel like the White Rabbit here.  No time, no time!  We’ll have to do this round-up of Fusenews in a quick quick fashion then.  Forgive the brevity!  It may be the soul of wit but it is really not my preferred strength.  In brief, then!

Dean Trippe, its creator, calls it YA.  I call it middle grade.  I also call it a great idea that we desperately need.  COME ON, DC!  Thanks to Hark, a Vagrant for the link.

  • The Scop is back!  This is good news.  It means that not only can author Jonathan Auxier show off a glimpse of his upcoming middle grade novel Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes but he also created a piece of true art: HoloShark with Easter Bunny.
  • If you know your Crockett Johnson (or your comics) you’ll know that long before Harold and that purple crayon of his the author/illustrator had a regular comic strip called Barnaby.  What you may not have known?  That it was turned into a stage play.
  • J.K. Rowling wants to create a Hagrid hut in her backyard?   She should get some tips from Laurie Halse Anderson.
  • Why do we never get sick of Shaun Tan?  Because the man is without ego.  So if you’ve a mind to, you can learn more about him through these 5 Questions with Shaun Tan over at On Our Minds @ Scholastic.
  • Thanks to the good people of Lerner, I got to hang out a bit with Klaus Flugge at a dinner in Bologna recently.  Not long after he showed The Guardian some of his favorite illustrated envelopes.  Hmm.  Wouldn’t be bad fodder for a post of my own someday.  Not that I have anything to compare to this:

10 Comments on Fusenews: Love to eat them mousies. Mousies what I love to eat., last added: 4/26/2011

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10. Fusenews: Terms we can live without = Young-young Adult

Amusing. I wrote an article for SLJ about the Bologna Book Fair and why librarians should attend in droves.  I was unprepared for some of the formatting choices on the piece, though.  The title Betsy Goes to Bologna caught me off guard, though it’s certainly true.  But it was the art created for the piece showing a pregnant and hugely stylish librarian jet setting about the town that really caught my fancy.  First off, I’ll have to find out from artist Ali Douglass where I can go about getting some of the shoes my avatar is sporting in these pics.  Second, anyone who saw me in Bologna will be amused by the difference in relative ankle circumference.  Mine were, needless to say, more akin to sturdy oaks than the svelte saplings portrayed here.

  • You have to wonder how bad a book can be when its celebrity author can’t make a sale.  In this case, Sarah Ferguson can’t sell a picture book about a little heroic pear tree on 9/11 to U.S. publishers.  To which we say, thanks guys.  I think I owe you one.  And if you’d like to abstain from printing any other celebrity picture books, please!  Don’t feel you have to ask permission.
  • The other day I was kvetching my usual kvetch about how it is that anytime a children’s middle grade novel appears in the news, it’s instantly dubbed “YA”.  Seems that I’m not the first person to notice this oddity, though.  Monica Edinger pointed out to me that over at the fabulous Misrule blog, Judith Ridge wrote the piece Whither the Children’s Books?.  In it she discusses, amongst other things, the fact that she once saw a reviewer refer to a book as “young-young adult”.  It’s enough to make your teeth itch.
  • I think it was Travis Jonker who pointed out the strange thing about this article.  Not that thousands of people were able to locate adequate Where’s Waldo outfits.  It’s the fact that there was already a world record for Most Waldos.  Of course, over in Britain he’s known as Wally (if anyone can give me an adequate reason for the American name change I’d love to hear it).  My favorite line from the piece?  “The Street Performance World Championships managed has organised similar events and last year broke the world record for the most people on space hoppers.”  Space hoppers?  Still, it looked mighty impressive:

Thanks to Travis Jonker for the link.

  • ALA is over and done with once again.  So what did we learn?  New author Jonathan Auxier has some answers to that question in his Five Things I Learned at ALA.  My favorite without a doubt: 4) Don’t Tell Lauren Myracle Anything.
  • All g

    10 Comments on Fusenews: Terms we can live without = Young-young Adult, last added: 7/8/2011
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