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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Jonathan Auxier, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 16 of 16
1. Goodbye, YALSA! Hello, ILF and B&N!

There’s nothing better than a crowd of librarians and authors to remind me how lucky I am to be in this line of work, and to inspire me to keep on writing and earning my place among this bunch.

This past weekend, Austin hosted the annual YA symposium of the Young Adult Library Services Association. I participated in the Saturday evening Book Blitz — in which authors seated behind stacks of publisher-donated books get blitzed by librarians snagging their share of signed copies — as well as a Sunday-morning panel discussion including (left-to-right in Paula Gallagher’s photo above) Jonathan Auxier, Lisa Yee, Andrew Smith, moderator/organizer/wrangler Kelly Milner Halls, Bruce Coville, and Laurie Ann Thompson.

It’s going to be a full week, as I’ll also be speaking at the Indiana Library Federation’s annual conferenceShark Vs. Train is a winner of the Young Hoosier Book Award — and then reading Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! at a Barnes & Noble back here in Austin.

If you’re interested in hearing me talk for, oh, 27 minutes and 59 seconds, but won’t be making it to either of those events, I’m happy to offer a third option: this podcast interview that author Jason Henderson recorded with me last week. Enjoy!

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2. Fusenews: This. That. Those. (A Trilogy)

  • NDWilsonVid1 300x167 Fusenews: This. That. Those. (A Trilogy)As per usual there are some Wild Things links I’d love to share today.  Lemme see here . . . Well we got a real stunner of a review over at Chapter 16.  That’s some good and gorgeous stuff going down there. Phil Nel called us “Punchy, lively, and carefully researched.”   The blog The Boy Reader gave us some serious love.  And today on our blog tour we’re at There’s a Book.  And then there’s the video at the Wild Things blog.  N.D. Wilson sent us a vid of the true behind-the-scenes story of Boys of Blur.  It’s kicking off our video series “Wild Things: Sneaky Peeks” where authors reveal the stories behind their books.

Aw heck.  I’ll save you some time.  Here’s the video.  This guy is amazing:

Don’t forget to keep checking back on the site for a new author a day!

  • It’s one thing to notice a trend.  It’s another entirely to pick up on it, catalog the books that represent it, and post accordingly.  I’d noticed in a vague disjointed way that there was a definite uptick in the number of picture books illustrated with photographs this year.  Trust Travis Jonker to systematically go through and find every last livin’ lovin’ one in his The State of Photography Illustration in 2014 post.  In his comment section I’ve added a couple others I’ve seen.  Be sure to do the same!
  • Since I don’t have school age kids yet I’m not in the school loop at the moment.  So it was a BIG shock to me to see the child of a friend of mine having her First Day of Kindergarten picture taken this week.  Really?  In early August?  With that in mind, this may seem a bit late but I care not.  The melodic cadences of Jonathan Auxier can be heard here recommending truly fantastic summer children’s book fare.  The man has fine fabulous taste.
  • In other summer news I was pleased as punch to read about the Y’s Summer Learning Loss Prevention Program.  You know summer slide?  Well it’s good to see someone doing something about it.  Check out the info.  Check out the stats.  Check out the folks trying to combat it.
  • It’s interesting to read the recent PW article Middle Grade and YA: Where to Draw the Line? which takes the issue from a bookseller P.O.V.  Naturally librarians have been struggling with this issue for years.  I even conducted a panel at NYPL a couple years ago called Middle Grade Fiction: Surviving the YA Onslaught in which MG authors Rebecca Stead, N.D. Wilson (he’s everywhere!), Jeanne Birdsall, and Adam Gidwitz discussed the industry’s attempts to brand them as YA (you can hear the full incredibly painful and scratchy audio of the talk here).  It’s a hot topic.
  • This.  This this this this this.  By the way, and completely off-topic, how long until someone writes a YA novel called “This”?  The sequel could be named “That”.  You’re welcome, publishing industry.
  • Harry Potter fan art is near and dear to my heart but in a pinch I’m happy to consider Harry Potter official cover art as well.  They just released the new British covers (and high bloody time, sayeth the masses).  They’re rather fabulous, with the sole flaw of never aging Harry.  What poor kid wants to look the same age at 10 as he does at 17?  Maybe it’s a wizard thing.  Here’s one of the new jackets to chew on:

HalfBloodPrinceBrit Fusenews: This. That. Those. (A Trilogy)

That might be my favorite Dumbledore to date.

  • There are whole generations of children’s librarians that went through graduate school reading and learning about educator Kay E. Vandergrift.  I was one of them, so I was quite sad to read of her recent passing.  The PW obit for her is excellent, particularly the part that reads, “Vandergrift was one of the first professors to establish a significant Web presence, spearheading the use of the Internet as a teaching tool. Her website, a self-declared ‘means of sharing ideas and information with all those interested in literature for children and young adults,’ was considered an important resource for those working with children and linked to more than 500 other sites.”  If you need to know your online children’s literary history, the story isn’t complete without Kay.  I always hoped she’d get around to including a blog section, but what she had was impressive in its own right.  Go take a gander.
  • I don’t consider myself a chump but there are times when even I get so blinded by a seemingly odd fact on the internet that I eschew common sense and believe it to be correct.  Case in point: The Detroit Tigers Dugout Librarian. Oh, how I wanted this to be true.  Born in Kalamazoo, a town equidistant between Detroit and Chicago, my baseball loyalties have always been torn between the Tigers and the Cubs (clearly I love lost causes).  So the idea of the Tigers having their own librarian . . . well, can you blame me for wanting to believe?  I WANNA BEE-LIEVE!
  • I’ve a new pet peeve.  Wanna hear it?  Of course you do!  I just get a bit peeved when popular sites create these lists of children’s books and do absolutely no research whatsoever so that every book mentioned is something they themselves read as children.  That’s why it’s notable when you see something like the remarkable Buzzfeed list 25 Contemporary Picture Books to Help Parents, Teachers, and Kids Talk About Diversity.  They don’t lie!  There are September 2014 releases here as well as a couple things that are at least 10 years old.  It’s a nice mix, really, and a great selection of books.  Thanks to Alexandria LaFaye for the link.
  • So they’re called iPhone wallpapers?  I never knew that.  Neil Gaiman’s made a score of them based on his children’s books.
  • Daily Image:

Maybe it’s just me but after seeing the literary benches cropping up in England I can’t help but think they make a LOT of sense.  More so than painting a statue of a cow or a Peanuts character (can you tell I lived in Minneapolis once?).  Here are two beautiful examples:

Wind the in the Willows

WindWillowsBench Fusenews: This. That. Those. (A Trilogy)

Alice Through the Looking Glass

AliceWonderlandBench Fusenews: This. That. Those. (A Trilogy)

Thanks to Stephanie Whelan for the link!

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3. Video Sunday: The Butterknife Thief

Okay . . . soooooooo this.  Look at this, oh ye children’s librarians.  Breathe this.  LIVE this!  Become this.

So naturally I had to find out who she is.  Go to YouTube and she has numerous videos under the moniker OoeyGooeyLady.  Almost all her videos date back two years.  Real name?  Lisa Murphy.  And as you might expect, she has a whole web presence as well.  Certainly those videos, the hand rhymes ones, are invaluable for children’s librarians.  There are other good ones there too.  Here’s a different one of her videos on respecting kids.

Kinda sorta could watch her all day.  Thanks to Alison Morris for the link.

From this blog I complain about so many things you’d think I was some kind of permanent grumpus. For example, you know what really bugs me?  When a TV show or movie can’t be bothered to show a kid reading a real children’s book and instead gets their prop team to make some fake one.  Recently I watched an episode of Louie that did just that (though props to the show for making it clear that a woman who knows her children’s literature is desirable, particularly if she’s played by Parker Posey).  So though I’m loathe to credit commercials, Intel got it right when they decided to hire Bob Staake for a bit rather than just make someone up.  Credit too to Travis Jonker for spotting the Staake.

Thanks to 100 Scope Notes for the link.

At first I thought this animated book trailer for Lizi Boyd’s Flashlight was burying the lead.  Yes the book looks good, but listen to that music.  Then look at the credit at the end.  “Original Music by Eric Wright”.

Turns out I was confusing the fellow’s name with Eric Wight.  An easy mistake to make.

A nice video from Louisville on the importance of reading early:

Pediatrics 500x282 Video Sunday: The Butterknife Thief


It’s a good piece but I was a little perturbed by the accompanying How Many Children’s Books Have You Read? piece.  Apparently this list was created by a National Education Association survey of teachers.  So  . . . Dom DeLuise?  Really?  And Love You Forever?  *sigh*

Two of my favorite guys.  Just talking.  Dishing the dirt.  Signing the books.  You know how it is.  It’s Tom Angleberger and Jonathan Auxier.

Oh.  And this may be useful in the future.  Just in case we ever want to set up an official yo-yo author tour (hey, you never know).

And for our off-topic video, for no particular reason, here is author Steve Almond tearing to teeny tiny shreds the song “Africa” by Toto.

Thanks to Mom for the link!


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4. School Days: AFTER THE BOOK DEAL – Guest Post by Jonathan Auxier

After the Book Deal Banner

The Internet is full of great advice about how to sell a book, but what about after the sale? When my first book came out, I found it was surprisingly hard to find answers to some basic questions. Like most authors, I learned most of the answers through trial and error. And so in anticipation of the launch of my new novel,The Night Gardener, I’ve decided to write down everything I learned so I don’t make the same mistakes twice!

AFTER THE BOOK DEAL is a month-long blog series detailing the twenty things I wish someone had told me before entering the exciting world of children’s publishing. Each weekday from now until MAY 20, I will be posting an article on a different blog. Follow along and please spread the word!


School Days: Crafting an Effective School Program

Yesterday I talked about how to do Skype visits with classrooms, now I want to move on to school assemblies! When my first book came out, I did almost nonstop school events for seven months—it was exhausting but extremely rewarding. I picked up a few things along the way that might be worth sharing …


NightGardener Cover

Be a Storyteller, not an Author

In the vast majority of cases, you will be coming to these kids as a complete stranger. Most kids will not have read (or even heard of) your books. This is important to remember as you’re crafting your presentation: don’t assume they will be impressed by the fact that you’re a published author. Your only job is to convince them that your story is something they want to read. The best way to do this is by BEING A STORYTELLER. Don’t just read an excerpt and give a summary—instead invite them into the world of your story, put them in the shoes of your hero, make the book come alive right there on the stage.


Play to Your Strengths

Take careful inventory of personal skills that you can bring to the table. Some authors draw on giant notepads. Others perform music. Others juggle or teach dance routines or fold origami. I exploited my past career as a professional yo-yo demonstrator by incorporating a yo-yo into my routine. It is hands-down the most popular part of every presentation! Chances are, you’ve got some silly talent that can be turned into a memorable moment in your presentations—make the most of it! Here’s a video of my yo-yo presentation, for the curious: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbmSYeyVDtI


Crowd Control

There’s no question that wrangling a crowd of kids can be tricky. I have a loud voice, but with groups over 100, I always require that schools provide a microphone. Even with a mic, however, a hall full of squirming kids can get pretty loud. I always request that the teacher/librarian who introduces me gives the kids a special reminder about appropriate assembly behavior. And when the classes are streaming into the room, I go to every one of the teachers and introduce myself, thank them for coming, and ask them where their students are sitting—this is a subtle way of encouraging the teachers to be more proactive with crowd control. My final crowd control trick is to start every presentation by showing the Peter Nimble book trailer. Not only does this give kids something to visualize the story, but it creates a baseline of actual silence from the crowd. I’ve found that when I don’t show the trailer, I’m never able to eliminate the dull roar of whispers and fidgeting that passes for “quiet” in other circumstances.


Build a Flexible Program

Every school runs on a different schedule. Generally speaking, assemblies will run between 40-60 minutes. It’s important that you have a program that can expand or contract to fit these requirements. Your goal should be to have discrete “bits” that you can add and remove at will depending on the needs of your audience. If I’m talking to a restless crowd, for example, I can trade out a more serious literary discussion for an extra game. Flexibility goes beyond time-management. When I started touring, I carried around two vintage suitcases full of props. The suitcases looked cool, but they were a serious pain in the neck. I’ve since learned to pare down my props—fitting everything I need into a single shoulder bag. Likewise, when showing my book trailer, I used to haul my laptop computer (school computers were just too unreliable). Recently, however, I’ve ditched the laptop for a small VGA adaptor that plugs directly into my iPhone … so much easier!

Selling Books

You always want to be working with a local bookseller that can handle sales—you don’t have time to deal with that stuff yourself. If the school doesn’t have a store they regularly work with, then offer to connect them to someone. In most cases, a store will give 10-20% of all proceeds back to the school … which you should encourage them to do. Every store has a different way of handling book sales. I’ve found the best method is to send out pre-order forms in advance of the event as well as a “last chance” order form that kids take home the day that you visit—then once all orders are collected, you can sign books at the store, which will deliver them to the school later in the week.


That’s it for AFTER THE BOOK DEALTomorrow we’ll be talking about how how and when to charge for appearances. In the meantime, you can catch up on previous posts (listed below), and please-oh-please spread the word!


WEEK ONE: Before Your Book Comes Out
4/21 – Finding Your Tribe: entering the publishing community
4/22 – Do I Really Need a Headshot?: crafting your public persona
4/23 – I Hate Networking: surviving social media
4/24 – A Night at the Movies: the ins and outs of book trailers
4/25 –  Giveaways! … are they worth it?


WEEK TWO: Your Book Launch
4/28 - Can I have Your Autograph?: 5 things to do before your first signing
4/29 –  Cinderella at the Ball: planning a successful book launch
5/1 – Being Heard in the Crowd: conferences and festivals
5/2 - The Loneliest Writer in the World: surviving no-show events


WEEK THREE: The Business of Being an Author
5/5 – Handling Reviews … the Good and the Bad!
5/6 – Back to the Grindstone: writing your next book
5/7 – The Root of All Evil: some thoughts on money
5/8 – The Green-Eyed Monster: some thoughts on professional jealousy


WEEK FOUR: Ongoing Promotion
5/12 – Death by 1000 Cuts: Keeping ahead of busywork
5/13 – Can You Hear Me Now? Tips for Skype visits

Jonthan Auxier Headshot - web square

JONATHAN AUXIER writes strange stories for strange children. His new novel, The Night Gardener, hits bookstores on May 20—why not come to his book launch party? You can visit him online at www.TheScop.com where he blogs about children’s books old and new.

Find The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s Books | Indiebound | Book Depository | Goodreads | ISBN-10/ISBN-13: 141971144X / 9781419711442

Thank you so much to Jonathan for stopping by today! Connect with Jonathan on Twitter and on Facebook!
Purchasing products by clicking through the links in this post will provide us a modest commission through our various affiliate relationships.

Original article: School Days: AFTER THE BOOK DEAL – Guest Post by Jonathan Auxier

©2014 There's A Book. All Rights Reserved.

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5. Video Sunday: “One floating duck does not a children’s book make”

I’ll confess to you that I think I just discovered the secret to Video Sunday.  If I “Favorite” videos I see in Twitter throughout the week I end up having a MUCH stronger series than if I’d just scouted them out on my own.  Phew!  Happy to know there’s a secret there.

Now in the event that someone should ask you “Who is the children’s book equivalent of John Green?” in terms of on-air personality and verve and downright caring, the answer is clear.  YA, you can keep you Green.  Jonathan Auxier is our man, as this video CLEARLY shows.  I like his style.

Best of all, this reminded me a bit of the David Maybury video along similar lines which . . . oh, what the heck.  Enjoy that too!

Reviews!! from David Maybury on Vimeo.

Folks, you may not know it but the newest Irish Children’s Laureate na nÓg is none other Eoin Colfer.  This is good.  He’s one of those folks you should do anything to see if he’s speaking in your general geographic area.  This video gives a hint of that, but it’s a pretty good look at the man himself.

Suddenly I’m thinking . . . what if the National Ambassador of Children’s Book Literature and the Irish Children’s Laureate na nÓg went on tour together?  Someone in the universe with more power than me, get on that.

This is pretty lovely.  It’s a look at Luke Pearson, the creator of those great Hilda graphic novels.  Pearson is sort of what one would imagine a British graphic novelist to be.  Introverted in all the right ways.

Luke Pearson from Nobrow Ltd on Vimeo.

I’d never thought of the Moomin influence on the Hilda books, but now that I see it it’s unavoidable.  Thanks to 100 Scope Notes for the link!

Okay, let’s get some librarians into this mix.  Maybe it’s because I’m pregnant (11 days to go!) but this seriously made me tear up a bit.  Partly because I used to work in St. Paul with a fair number of Hmong and Somalia immigrants (I was with a refrigeration company . . . long story).  But this is just the kind of thing libraries should be making all the time, and it’s beautifully created and edited.

Thanks to AL Direct for the link.

More, libraries!  MORE!  My library.  I walked in on them doing a lot of the shots of this video last month.  Plus it features Leonard Marcus talking about his exhibit (up until September for free here in NYC!!) and I know that a lot of you folks haven’t had a chance to hear him speak in person.  This video is specifically about Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  Plus you get shots of the exhibit.  Win-win!

Off-Topic Video:

Well, this probably isn’t workplace friendly since it does show live octopus sex.  But I’d seen other videos in this series before, but I think this one is definitely my favorite.  The faux Morgan Freeman voice is good and the info is actually surprisingly factual.  Lots of stuff I didn’t know AND there’s a Charlotte’s Web reference about a minute from the end, along with speculation on which sea creature would write the worst type of children’s book.

Full credit to Gregory K for finding this link!

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6. After the Book Deal - a guest post by Jonathan Auxier

Today I'm pleased to welcome author Jonathan Auxier to Shelf-employed.  He is the author of Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes and The Night Gardener, and is traveling the blogosphere with a month-long series detailing the things he learned in his first year of publishing.  His post today is titled "Surviving No Shows."  

AFTER THE BOOK DEAL – Guest Post by Jonathan Auxier

The Internet is full of great advice about how to sell a book, but what about after the sale? When my first book came out, I found it was surprisingly hard to find answers to some basic questions. Like most authors, I learned most of the answers through trial and error. And so in anticipation of the launch of my new novel, The Night Gardener, I’ve decided to write down everything I learned so I don’t make the same mistakes twice!
AFTER THE BOOK DEAL is a month-long blog series detailing the twenty things I wish someone had told me before entering the exciting world of children’s publishing. Each weekday from now until MAY 20, I will be posting an article on a different blog. Follow along and please spread the word!
Day Nine: Surviving No-Shows
Yesterday we talked about how to make the most of crowded festivals and conferences. Today, we’ll discuss the opposite problems: the dreaded no-show!
No-shows are the Lord Voldemort of book events. Authors are afraid to speak of them. Bookstores pretend they don’t exist. But they do exist. In fact, they are everywhere. Want proof? Go to three random signings at three different stores . . . I guarantee that at least one of them will be a no-show.

An Author’s Perspective
I was lucky when I launched Peter Nimble. My first three signing events were amazing, bringing 100+ people. But I knew from horror stories of author friends that this run would end, and boy did it. Two months into promoting, I hit a freak wall where I had a series of events where pretty much nobody showed up. It’s horrible and demoralizing. Even worse, you might find yourself secretly resenting the bookstore for not guaranteeing a turnout. But’s that’s completely backwards! You should never assume that a bookseller will attract people to events—they’re busy running a book store. Here’s the truth: It’s your job to bring people to them. Which means that you need to reach out to your own community. Don’t just tweet the event the morning of the event, reach out to friends and relatives in the area inviting them to come. Even a small handful people from your network showing up can save an event from disaster.

A Bookseller’s Perspective
The only people who hate no-shows more than authors are booksellers. Low turnouts are both embarrassing and frustrating. Bookstores can promote the heck out of your event—they can book school visits and make huge window displays ... and still no one will show up. Why? Because the universe is cruel, that’s why. After a few rough events, I started asking booksellers for advice. How did they wish authors handled these events? Their answers were brilliant, and comprise my advice below ...
How to Beat No-Show Events
1) Swing for the Fences
A professional does her job even when it’s no fun. No matter how few people show up to a signing, give them a full show with all your energy. So tell jokes, draw them pictures, talk to them about their favorite books and movies. Why not? It’s not like you have somewhere better to be!

2) Take Control of the Situation
The best advice I got about no-shows was from a bookseller in southern California. She said that as soon as it’s clear an event is a bust, the author should ask permission to move their signing table (and books) to the very front of the store—that way they can talk to every single person who walks through the door. I started doing this and it made a huge difference. Suddenly, I was selling 30-40 books at events where nobody showed up. (This will make booksellers into big fans!) There is an art to talking to strangers without being too pushy. But if you are genuinely passionate about your book, that should shine through. I have found that the best way to approach strangers is with the following question: “Do you have any readers in your life between 8-12?” If the person says “no,” they I leave them alone. But if the person says “yes” then we’re already on our way.
Of course, no one likes selling things to strangers. Do what it takes to get in the right frame of mind. (For me, that involves singing “Carrying the Banner” from NEWSIES at the top of my lungs.)

3) Become a Jr. Bookseller!
Your job involves much more than just standing behind a table signing books for adoring fans ...  especially when there are no fans. But even a small turnout is a chance to sell a lot of books. Don’t be satisfied with selling a copy of your own book to a customer, instead talk to the person to learn her favorite books—and then recommend similar works from the store shelves. In general, I make it a goal to sell 1-2other books to every person who buys my book. Consider how this looks from the bookseller perspective: even if you only sold a few of your own books, the event now led to significantly more sales for the store. Obviously, handselling takes a degree of awareness about a lot of different genres, but if you’re not already a serious reader, you probably have no business writing books in the first place.

4) Get to Know Your Bookseller
The last thing to consider is how a no-show actually provides a good opportunity. Without customers commanding your attention,you suddenly have a lot of time to spend hanging out with a bookseller! Talk to them about their store, and what they’re reading—make a genuine connection with a fellow booklover. Talk to them about your favorite books, and what inspired you to write. Remember: these are the people who will be tasked with trying to sell off your unsold stock ... or else return them to the publisher. This is a small industry, and you will likely be seeing one another again. Turn your next encounter into a happy reunion!

That’s it for AFTER THE BOOK DEAL! Next week we’ll be talking about the business of being a professional writer. Swing by, and please-oh-please spread the word!

JONATHAN AUXIER writes strange stories for strange children. His new novel, The Night Gardener, hits bookstores on May 20—why not come to his book launch party? You can visit him online at www.TheScop.com where he blogs about children's books old and new.

Although he doesn't mention library events, now I know that if I ever host an author visit that is a bust, I can just blame the author! Thank you for that comforting thought, Jonathan.  But speaking seriously, I take extraordinary measures to ensure that there is never a no-show event at my library, and I hope that all authors realize that while they may not sell many books during library visits, libraries themselves are a large market share.  Ask me how copies of each Wimpy Kid book my library owns and how many times each has had to be replaced for wear and tear! L.T.

If you missed my review of The Night Gardener, read it here.

Want to hear more from Jonathan Auxier?  Follow the rest of the blog tour or catch up on previous entries.

WEEK ONE: Before Your Book Comes Out
April 21 – “Finding Your Tribe” @ Shannon Messenger
April 22 – “Do I Really Need a Headshot?” @ Novel Novice
April 23 – “I Hate Networking” @ Charlotte’s Library
April 24 – “A Night at the Movies” @ The Lost Entwife
April 25 –  “Giveaways!” @ Smack Dab in the Middle

WEEK TWO: Your Book Launch
April 28 - “Can I have Your Autograph?” @ Haunted Orchid
April 29 –  “Cinderella at the Ball” @ The O.W.L.
May 1 - Being Heard in the Crowd @ The Misbehavin’ Librarian
May 2 – “The Loneliest Writer in the World” @ Shelf Employed

WEEK THREE: The Business of Being an Author
May 5 – “Back to the Grindstone” @ Word Spelunking
May 6 – “The Root of All Evil” @ The Compulsive Reader
May 7 – “Care and Feeding of Your Muse” @ Buried in Books
May 8 – “The Green-Eyed Monster” @ The Book Monsters
May 9 – “Death by 1000 Cuts” @ Waking Brain Cells

WEEK FOUR: Keeping Your Book Alive
May 12 – “A Cheering Squad of One” @ So I’m Fifty
May 13 – “This Part is Awkward” @ TBA
May 14 – “School Days” @ There’s a Book
May 15 – “Crowd Control” @ Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
May 16 – “Keeping the Magic Alive” @ Tif Talks Books

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7. 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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8. 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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9. 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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10. 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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11. 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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12. 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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13. 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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14. 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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15. Coming soon!

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16. 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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