March 31, 2010

Kidlit NaPoMo Who?

It's not quite April 1 yet, but welcome anyway to Kidlit NaPoMo--the 2010 KidLit Celebration of National Poetry Month!

As usual, there's a lot going on around the kidlitosphere. Laura Evans of All Things Poetry has kindly compiled a list, which I've reprinted here, but it's also posted under the “April National Poetry Month” button on her website.

Let the poetry party commence! (And don't forget to visit Book Aunt this week for Poetry Friday!)

30 Poets/30 Days in April 2010 @ GottaBook

Gregory K. features 30 children’s poets, one-a-day during April in a Celebration of Children’s Poetry. Each poem is previously unpublished.

New GLBTQ Teen Poetry @ I'm Here, I'm Queer, What the Hell Do I Read?

Lee Wind is publishing many new Teen voices during April for National Poetry Month.

Poems about Teaching @ A Year of Reading

Mary Lee Hahn will post an original poem about teaching and/or learning each day in April. She will invite other teachers, librarians, students, learners and poets to send her their original teaching and/or learning poems (or links to their poem posts) for inclusion. The more the merrier!

Also at A Year of Reading, Franki will review poetry books and tell about the Poetry Month activities she conducts in the school library throughout April.

Poetry Book Giveaway @ Irene Lathan

Irene Latham is giving away a favorite poetry anthology each Poetry Friday during April 2010. She has instigated a challenge to write a poem a day during April. She invites everybody to join her.

Poetry Makers @ The Miss Rumphius Effect

Tricia Stohr-Hunt interviews 30 children’s poets. She starts off with Mary Ann Hoberman, Children’s Poet Laureate, USA. The list is stellar!

Poetry Potluck @ Jama Rattigan’s alphabet soup

Jama is posting an original poem and favorite recipe each weekday throughout the month of April by some of the Poetry Friday regulars.

Poetry Tag @ Sylvia Vardell's Poetry for Children

For National Poetry Month in April, we’re playing "Poetry Tag" at PoetryForChildren. Sylvia Vardell will be inviting poets to "play" along by offering a poem for readers to enjoy, then "tag" a fellow poet who then shares her/his own poem THAT IS CONNECTED to the previous poem in SOME way—by a theme, word, idea, tone-- and offers a sentence or two explaining that connection. The poets have responded enthusiastically and will be sharing a chain of poems by J. Patrick Lewis, X. J. Kennedy, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Avis Harley, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Joyce Sidman, and more!

Poetry Postcard Project @ Jone MacCulloch

Students write a poem which is placed on a postcard. All of the postcards are decorated. If you want one, send Jone ( your address and she will mail one to you.

More information can be found here:

Thirty Days, Thirty Students, Thirty Poems @ Jone MacCulloch

Each day in April Jone is posting a new student poem on her blog, "Check It Out" (

Share a Poem @ Laura Purdie Salas

Laura Salas will post a children’s poem per day from a poetry book she loves.

Original Poem-A-Day Challenge
The following people are challenging themselves to write a poem a day. Poems will appear on the poet’s site.

Susan Taylor Brown:
Mary Lee Hahn:
Andromeda Jazmon:
Irene Latham:
Jone MacCulloch:
Elizabeth Moore:
April Halprin Wayland:

There may be more, but for now, go forth and enjoy!

March 28, 2010

A Swashbuckling Graphic Novel Series: The Crogan Adventures

The review copies of Crogan's Vengeance and Crogan's March were both sent to me by the publisher; Crogan's Vengeance was a Cybils finalist in the YA graphic novels category.

The Crogan Adventures is a series of swashbuckling adventure graphic novels by Chris Schweizer. Each installment follows a different Crogan ancestor--pirates, soldiers, gunslingers, what have you. In each book, the frame story that sets up the action is the modern-day Crogan family: two boys and two parents, the father full of stories about the exciting Crogans of the past.

When one of the boys faces a mild issue such as bullies at school or a fight with his brother, Dad quickly steps in with a helpful tale of how a past Crogan dealt with a similar issue, and those past Crogans form the meat of the story. Which is good--the frame story is amusing, but for me, the real action takes place in the stories of pirate "Catfoot" Crogan (in Crogan's Vengeance) or legionnaire Peter Crogan (in Crogan's March). The frame lends it some ongoing structure from volume to volume, but it mainly seemed to serve the purpose of making sure the reader is aware of the theme and the moral of each tale. That didn't bother me, though some might find it intrusive or unneeded.

In both volumes, the adventure aspect has universal appeal, there's non-stop action, and the story is well-written. Plus, who doesn't love pirates plying the high seas, or valiant soldiers who help the needy and triumph against the odds? Schweizer's humorous, loose illustrations fit the tone and reminded me of classic kids' adventure comics like Asterix the Gaul.

In some ways I would have loved this to be in color, but maybe it's better for the style of the broad ink strokes that it's black and white--it helps focus attention on the slashing, expressive line quality, and adds to the atmosphere of action-packed fighting. A fun series with plenty of kid and adult appeal and a very classic, old-school kids-comics feel.

March 26, 2010

Sequel Rambles

Okay, I was quiet when I learned that Hilary Duff was going to be writing YA novels. I thought, "Okay. Maybe she's a BACA candidate, but she still kinda counts as a young adult; maybe ..." well, maybe I decided I'm too busy to say anything.

Then the plot(z?)-producing book packaging dynamo that is ICM came up with The Carrie Diaries. Yes. Because you know you're dying to know what Carrie Bradshaw of HBO's Sex in the City was like as a young adult.

*Le sigh.*

I don't really know what it is -- maybe it's something in the air, like Spring? But it's bringing out a crop of young adult and children's sequels. McSweeney's were right on the money with their sequels, and of course, we will all always remember with great fondness last Spring's Unnecessary Children's Sequels That Never Were. Because I don't link movies with books (not in my head, anyway), I'm mostly okay with the second TRON and the Tim Burton treatment of Alice in Wonderland looks sufficiently crazed to match up to the original. But I have to admit that I'm getting a bit leery of the "old novel/modern sequel" thing -- people are apparently looking so hard for a sure thing that they're coattail riding in hopes of making a new hit.

Now, Peter Pan in Scarlet apparently was okay - I just haven't had the time to read it yet -- and I've heard great things about Hilary McKay's sequel to The Little Princess. (The trend of pairing Austen novels with monsters don't count as anything at all. It's like equating the Sunday comics with the newspaper.) But in many cases, there's no apparent need for a sequel, and it still seems like writers are searching old books instead of their imaginations for new fodder.

Case in point? A Brit named Andrew Motion is apparently now writing the sequel to Stevenson's Treasure Island. Everyone crows, "best loved classic!" when referring to the book... so why would anyone think it needed a sequel? It just seems more like a marketing decision than a novelist's immediate thought. (Or, could we call it fanfic?) Because the original is so well-known, there's all kinds of publicity, and the book is therefore already half-sold...

I love books with planned sequels -- trilogies and the like, if they're done well. But this 127 years later sequel just seems like it's an idea doomed to fail.

Via Bookshelves of Doom comes the intriguing news that NPR's Monkey See blog is blogging... Stephanie Meyers' TWILIGHT. Trying to understand pop culture and the hysteria generated by this series, the bloggers actually bring up some fairly salient points about plot and writing style -- although I am annoyed by their questions, which repeatedly veer along the lines of, "Well, this is for teen girls, right? So does it have to be strongly written?" I'd like to invite them to read some Kathleen Duey and take that back. Grr. Tonight they end the whole thing with a live chat which will be hilarious, no doubt.

Apologies - don't know where I first saw this link, but it's on author Brian Yansky's blog. An author on receiving a rejection, writes back rejecting it. Not that it does him any good. Whether you want to screech or flail when you're rejected, how are you with writing critique? Yat Yee's decided she needs a few good inner editors. Ralph Fiennes, to start with...

Finnieston 171

Happy Blustery Friday!

March 10, 2010

SSF Awesomeness

Et nous? Et Tu! By now you've heard the JOYOUS news that Tu Publishing, about whom we spread the love in December, during their fundraiser kickstart, is now TU BOOKS - an imprint of the one and only Lee & Low. There's been a lot of interviews and publicity in the kidlitosphere, including at The Enchanted Inkpot, where we hear from Tu's editorial director, Stacey Whitman.

Tu is a fairytale in and of itself -- a group of upstarts decide to publish multicultural science fiction and fantasy for kids, raise a startling amount of money, catch the attention of a larger house, well-established house, and voila - dream comes true.

Tu Books: we can't wait to see what you've got!

I can't believe I haven't posted about this yet -- it's for LIBRARIANS ONLY, and THERE'S STILL TIME TO ENTER:

Librarians, you have small budgets and there's a world of SFF out there your kids haven't read. So, to honor the amazing Joni Sensel, please join her birthday giveaway, and enter to win these fine books:

1. INCARCERON by Catherine Fisher (hardback)
2. SACRED SCARS by Kathleen Duey (hardback)
3. THE BOOK OF NONSENSE by David Michael Slater (hardback)
4. THE BOOK OF KNOWLEDGE by David Michael Slater (hardback)
5. THE SECRETS OF THE CHEESE SYNDICATE by Donna St. Cyr (paperback)
6. HOUSE OF THE SCORPION by Nancy Farmer (paperback)
7. THE EMERALD TABLET By PJ Hoover (hardback)
8. NAVEL OF THE WORLD by PJ Hoover (hardback)
9. THE SEER #1: DON”T DIE DRAGONFLY by Linda Joy Singleton (revised large issue with short story bonus)
10. THE FARWALKER’S QUEST by Joni Sensel (hardback)
11. THE TIMEKEEPER’S MOON by Joni Sensel (hardback)

HOW TO ENTER? Simply send The Spectacle your library’s name and your professional e-mail address. You can leave that info in the comments here or e-mail it directly to joni AT Librarians earn an additional chance at the prize if they repost the contest and/or tweet the contest and let Joni know with the link.

Happy birthday month, Joni! Librarians, YOU HAVE UNTIL MARCH 25! Don't delay!

Shannon Hale speaks on women and girls and the stereotypes which are being reinforced in movies. WORD, Ms. Hale. First, they came for the parents - mostly mothers - in Disney. Cause mothers are annoying. And then, in comedies, for the girls... 'cause girls aren't funny. Right?

No Book Was Mangled In the Making of This Film, So It's All Good (although I don't doubt there will be book tie-ins in about four minutes): I *WOULD* say, "Do you remember TRON?" but the fact is... I can't even tell you when the original movie came out. Twenty-eight years ago in 1982? Sheesh, no wonder I only saw it about three years ago...*cough* During one of our Bad SciFi Movie nights. *cough* However, SOMEONE in this household a.) was NOT watching it for the first time, b.) didn't consider it bad SciFi and c.) is excited enough about it that I must needs share the TRON LEGACY 3D trailer with them.

Click. Here. Be happy.

Fire up Those Mad Essay Skillz: Pyr is a SFF imprint of Prometheus Books, and they've been up and going for five whole years now! To share the love with their readers, they're sponsoring an essay contest -- "Pyr invites readers and fans to submit a short essay on the theme: Five reasons why science fiction and fantasy is important to you."

The prizes are amazing -- from plaques to books to a fully-paid trip to Dragon*Con in Atlanta. SFF-ites, polish up ye olde essay-writing skills! (Via SF Signal.)

Because We Are, In Fact, Geektastic: Do you not love this SETI scarf from Make Magazine? Just in case you see any extra-terrestrials while you're out in about in the nippy Spring weather, you know, you can convince them this planet has intelligent life. Or something.

Enormous Timewaster du Jour: The Historic Construction Kit: Make Your Own Bayeux Tapestry... with considerably funnier storylines!

March 09, 2010

Cybils Graphic Novel Finalists, YA, Part II

As with the previous installment of Cybils YA graphic novel reviews, sources include Stanislaus County Library and review copies sent by publishers for Cybils judging. Today I'm looking at two modern interpretations of classic tales--or sets of tales.

Who doesn't like the tale of Robin Hood? Well, probably a few people, but they can go away and leave the rest of us to read Outlaw: The Legend of Robin Hood by Tony Lee, Sam Hart, and Artur Fujita. This take on the classic story was full of intrigue and snappy dialogue, as well as a wealth of moody, grim atmosphere, historical detail, and as much moxie as possible (given the context) for Maid Marian. Despite some anachronistic dialogue (yeah, I'm picky about that), it was well-written, and gave a lot of depth to the legendary Robin Hood character.

Little extra thing that I liked: The historical/literary information at the end was a very nice and informative touch. Thing that bugged me: Though the atmosphere created through the use of color and shadow was excellent, and the overall layout was fine, I had trouble telling the difference between characters in a lot of scenes. In general, though, this is a pretty strong retelling that looks at the story from a slightly different angle than readers are probably used to seeing in mass-produced versions of the tale.

It's also easy to see how Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Death and Dementia by Edgar Allan Poe and Gris Grimly would make a finalist list for YA graphic novels. Poe's appeal is pretty universal, except for those who completely avoid mystery, horror, or gore. And this set of tales is certainly disturbing and gory. A little over the top, in fact--which in some respects is perfect.

In my opinion, this would make a great volume (or series, I guess) to introduce readers to Poe. The choice of tales seemed a little odd to me in some cases, with a few obscure ones making an appearance, and the abridging of the stories was not always done as smoothly as it could have been. For the most part, though, the abridging was unobtrusive. I did enjoy how the illustrations were laid out and how the book designers gave this more of a graphic-novel feel than simply being an illustrated book. I had mixed feelings about the drawing style, however. There were times when I felt it was absolutely fitting, and others when I didn't like how characters were interpreted, or when the drawing style seemed to be less cohesive. At those times, the atmosphere and mood still came across but, for me anyway, the clarity of storytelling was sacrificed. Still, I love the idea of turning Poe into a graphic novel, and this is an intriguing way of tackling that idea.

March 04, 2010

Cybils Graphic Novel Finalists, YA, Part I

It's going to be a graphic novel extravaganza around here for a while, as I not only work through posting reviews of the fabulous Cybils finalists, but also work through a small pile of graphic novels that have been sent to me for review and are waiting eagerly to be read. Can I complain? Nope. I would, however, like to note where I obtained the following titles: sources include Stanislaus County Library and review copies sent by publishers for Cybils judging--thank you to Archaia Press and IDW Publishing. Anyway, read on for some of my thoughts and reactions during the judging period.

First, the Cybils winner! Congratulations to Gunnerkrigg Court: Orientation, which is the novelization of a serial webcomic by Tom Siddell. In fact, it's book one of a series, one that fans of fantasy "school stories" (like, well, the big HP) are sure to enjoy. It's surreal and mysterious, peppered with odd critters, magical and mechanical constructs, and intriguingly-utilized mythological elements. The friendships, however, are appealing and realistic, as we see main character Antimony settle into her new life at the odd Gunnerkrigg school.

It's a good story with a consistent pace, nicely conveyed through the graphic storytelling using a brief chapter format. At the end of each chapter is a little one-page "extra" mini-story; these are cute and fun, though I didn't feel they added a lot to the main story. In terms of visual style, I loved the diversity of characters and, particularly, the fantastical elements and overall atmosphere. The main character could have been a bit more visually expressive, though I know it's part of Antimony's personality to be a bit reserved and keep to herself. Overall, I'm left intrigued and wanting to read more--I guess I'll have to read the sequel to find out how they develop and figure out the real story behind this strange magical school across from a dangerous wood, watched over by creepy mechanical birds...

The Dreamer: The Consequence of Nathan Hale, Pt. 1, by Lora Innes, seemed to inspire a lot of differing opinions in the judging panel. I, for one, thought it was a worthy candidate, despite a few minor complaints. I'm not so sure about the cover artwork, for one thing...but the story inside is told in a very classic comic style (reminiscent--for me, at least--of DC/Vertigo titles of the '90s). It works well for this story, which has a contemporary storyline as well as one which takes place in America's past. Modern-day high school student Beatrice starts visiting a handsome Revolutionary soldier in her dreams...dreams that seem all too real.

It's nicely done, though a few of the soldier characters were hard to tell apart. I think the blending of past and present is appealing, as well as the blending of genres: is it historical-romance-fantasy-adventure? The historical details are well-utilized, despite a few anachronistic elements that bugged me a little, and it's got a great set of characters (and the possibility for interracial romance between Bea and a school friend, though poor Mr. Smarty Pants Teenager Guy doesn't really stand a chance against Sexy Soldier Boy). This one's also a serial, as I was somewhat abruptly reminded at the end of this volume when I was LEFT HANGING, darn it.

With this one, it's hard to know if the romance elements are going to irritate guy readers, but I think it's got potential for both male and female reading audiences.

March 03, 2010

Random Notes & Errata

Good Morning Bookfans! Need a little something to get the juices pumping? Try this Black Eyed Peas cover from the happy Floridians at Ocoee Middle School -- I Gotta Keep Reading (Cause This Book's Gonna Be A Good, Good Book). Happy Wednesday dance party to you. (Hat tip to Susan @ Chicken Spaghetti!)

"It is important to me that African American youths know they need not look to a castle in England to find magic; there are wonders to discover and adventures to be had right here at home (and in other parts of the globe)."

Our girl Zetta is in The Horn Book. Decolonizing the Imagination. Wow.

SFF Errata:
It's Malinda Lo Day. Did you miss it? Tarie of Color Online Malinda Lo. Also, Malinda guest posts at Justine Larbalestier's blog on The Woman Warrior. On her own blog, she discusses Asian-ness, or, lack of, in Ash. Go. Read. Discuss.

Yet another film adaptation: I'm a huge fan of Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy. If you've never read it -- wow. It's brilliant, and I don't mean that in the British sense of reflexively saying everything is brilliant. I mean it in the fullest definition of the word -- the man had an astounding intellect, and it shows in that sprawling, layered, centuries long, Earth-to-space-and-beyond... epic.

You know they're going to completely screw up the movie adaptation of it, right? Oh, promises, promises, Mr. Emmerich. Sadly, you all know how much I HATE book adaptations... but hope springs eternal (because Earthlings are blind and foolishly optimistic). Maybe it'll be good...

FREE! We like that word: I love the work of author Kelley Armstrong, and this year's Cybils introduced me to the second book in her Darkest Powers trilogy? series? I went back and read the first book -- and am DYING to read the third. You can now read the first book, The Summoning, for free for a limited time. Thanks, HarperCollins! The opening chapters of the following two books are there as well.

A writing question: Can you actually start a novel with theme as a jumping-off point? Do people actually do that? Is that like teaching to a test? Inquiring minds want to know.

(My personal answer? I can't. It seems a lot like writing a book with a "message," if you write to a theme... and I like Samuel Goldwyn's idea about books with messages: "If you want to send a message, call Western Union.")

Just FYI: Tanita's blog has now moved to [fiction, instead of lies] at WordPress. Apologies to all who tried to comment on blog posts and were completely stymied over the weekend.

March 01, 2010

Wicked Cool Overlooked Books: Black Magic

Un. Be. Lievable.
It's the first Monday of the month, and that hair-raising WHOOSH! you just felt against your face was February blowing by. 2010 has a superpower, and it's speed of days, people (but only when you're not paying attention). Already, it's time for Wicked Cool Overlooked Books!

Trudi Canavan is a Melbourne-born author who was raised in... Fern Gully. No, wait, not that place with those annoying rainforest things, Ferntree Gully, which sounds like a magical place in its own right, sans aggravating animation. Anyway, she had a dream job -- a designer, illustrator and cartographer for Lonely Planet. But writing was a budding dream, as well, and in 1999, she won a writer's fellowship. In 2001, she sold the first book in this series to HarperCollins Australia.

This novel was a great one to read during the Olympics. Why? Because of ... The Purge.

Sonea is a dwell, which means she's a poor kid from the slums of Imardin. Like so many other kids and teens in the city, she's just trying to get by -- and lately, she's been trying to get by without the gang she used to hang with. The guys are such fun, but Sonea's aunt has convinced her -- with a lot of scolding and heavy sighs -- that there's no future in running with a gang, and that her light-fingered ways will bring her to the attention of the city guards one day. Her aunt wants her to be more than a bol-drinking, pickpocketing dwell-girl, and Sonea has been... trying.

She means to go straight and safely home on the day of The Purge, but she gets caught up in the drama. Every year, the Masters of the Magician's Guild, at the King's bidding, empty the city of vagrants, miscreants, and those who make the city look bad by simply driving them out with a line of magic. There is nothing the dwells can do about it -- everyone is found and marched out, at the point of a sword, and prevented from returning due to a wall of magic. Forced into retreating beyond the circle wall, the poor lose their houses and hardscrabble existence and must start over -- every single year.

Sonea might be just an ignorant dwell, but even she knows this is no way to live.

This year, as always, the gang is fighting back. Throwing stones, rotted fruit, and other detritus at the magical barrier at least expresses their frustrations with the King's dubious city gentrification plan, even if it does nothing to the magicians, who merely stand chatting and impervious behind the impenetrable wall of magic. Sonea has nothing to do with The Purge -- but when she's caught up on the wrong side of the line after returning to warn her friends of an ambush by the guards, she grimly decides that she's in. After all, she's got a right to her rage. Why is the King of Imardin king only over the Houses of Imardin? Why isn't he a just ruler over all? Why do the magicians help him in what is so obviously wrong? Why should half the population have to scrimp and hustle, at the mercy of the Thieves Guild and the hard-knock world of the slums? Sonea takes all of her anger and angst and frustration and wraps it in the rock she throws against the magical barrier. Full of outrage and pain, the rock bursts through the barrier -- and knocks a magician out.

Wait. What? How'd that happen?

The reverberations of this single act go much further than simple anger over a lower-class person striking a person of status. The dwells are delighted. The Houses are incensed. The magicians -- and every other magic user in the city - are shocked. Sonea is ... terrified. She knows that the magicians are the destructive arm of the King of Imardin. Her life, as she knew it, is over. But run as she might -- and she's quite successful in dodging those trying to ferret her out, with a little help from her friends -- there's no place far enough or deep enough or hidden enough for Sonea to escape the magic... her magic. Her power has been awakened... and if she doesn't use it, it will use her.

This is a fantastic series for a number of reasons:
One - there are peoples of all colors in the kingdom. Imardin residents have a full palette of shades from surrounding kingdoms, complete with thought-out cultural differences to match.

Two: This novel deals with issues of class and injustice, and Sonea is not just politely dismayed, the girl is justifiably angry to be impoverished and in jeopardy, simply because of the decisions of a stupid majority. As I mentioned, it's an excellent novel to read instead of watching the Olympics and reminds us of what it takes to create an Olympic Village... the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people and the razing of their homes to make way for the pomp and circumstance. Olympic host city gentrification is not all athletes and pretty skating outfits, unfortunately. Many nations collude in authorizing a Purge of their own. (But let's not get me started.)

Three: Worldbuilding - this kingdom has a lot in common with much of fantasy fiction's standard tropes, yet it seamlessly incorporates pieces of the modern world, politically and socioeconomically. This is an intelligent, fast-paced, well-characterized edge-of-your-seat nerve-wracking book for older MG/YA readers, and comes complete with an amusing dwell-talk glossary in the back.

-- And it comes with two sequels!

Another nice thing is that this series isn't brand new -- you'll be able to find the books in your local library. And if you look, you can probably find an even earlier series by the same author -- but I haven't read those yet, so you'll have to let me know what you think of them!

I feel I must warn you that the conclusion to the series made me more than slightly grumpy. I mean, I love an enigmatic ending, but wow. On one hand, life happens, and goes on, but I wasn't a fan of the ending. I was amazed to discover that the author has penned a PREQUEL (The Magician's Apprentice, just out last year) and a SEQUEL trilogy is in the works, so Sonea's story is still going, oh, happy thought. According to Ms. Canvan's blog, Book 1 of The Traitor Spy Trilogy, The Ambassador's Mission is possibly due out this May, with more swoosh-y robes on the cover! WOOT!

The Australian/UK covers really are striking and well done - the American covers have an unfortunate tendency to have Sonea as a half-dressed girl on them, as if being a reluctant dwell magician wasn't bad enough. Anyway. Pick these up - you'll find the story will leave you wanting more. Happy WCOB, and Happy March.

Happy Reading, dear friends. You can find The Magician's Guild, Book 1 of The Black Magician Trilogy, The Novice, and The High Lord, as well as the series prequel, The Magician's Apprentice, and eventually the first book in the sequel series, all at an independent bookstore near you!