April 30, 2010

It's Baaaaaack!

COMING MAY FIRST! Free Comic Book Day is back!

Free Comic Book Day is a single day when participating comic book specialty shops across North America and around the world give away comic books absolutely free to anyone who comes into their shops. All those great little independent shops, stuffed with books and plastic-covered copies of X-men are grateful for their readers, and the people whose enthusiasm keeps them going strong. It's a fun day to get into comic books, if you're not a fan yet, and a good excuse to pick up a few things while you're in there getting your freebie.

Not sure where you can find your local comic book store? Here's a handy store locator -- just type in your zip code or post code, for international shops.


April 29, 2010

Random Reads: The Mysterious Doings of Springer and Stead

Somebody by Nancy Springer is a lightning-quick, fast-paced read that should appeal to fans of suspense authors like Caroline Cooney. The narrator is a fifteen-year-old girl named Patty. Or is she fourteen? She isn't sure quite how old she is—but what she DOES know is her real name isn't Patty, it's Sherica. But if she tells anyone, her dad and older brother will be livid.

Who is Sherica?...besides an overweight, unhappy girl whose family never stays in one place long enough for her to have real friends, that is. She isn't sure who she really is, but eventually she can't stand not knowing anymore. With the help of possibly her first true friend, she embarks on a journey into the unknown and the dimly-remembered that threatens the dubious stability of her current life, not to mention her relationship with the only family she's really ever known.

Rightly, this book is an ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant YA Readers, and it fits that category well. As the type of reader who likes to delve a bit into my stories and characters, I could happily have read the story if it had been twice as long. But Springer (a two-time Edgar winner) packs a lot into these pages.

Buy Somebody from an independent bookstore near you!

Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me, in addition to winning a great deal of praise, seems to have sparked a little controversy to boot—specifically with respect to who the intended audience is and whether it might appeal more to older readers' sense of nostalgia than to the teen readers it's marketed to. Personally, I was but a tot in 1979, so I fall somewhere in between, I guess.

I'm not going to address that argument in detail, but from my perspective, this is definitely a crossover book—yes, the late-1970s setting is going to tug on the memories of those old enough to have experienced that time period, not to mention appealing to those with a 70s fetish. But beyond that, it's a moody, complex, clever and tightly-written story with intriguing developments that, dare I say, are age-independent. It starts as a tale of friendship and family woes of the sort that transcend the details of time and place—though of course those critical details lend it solidity and uniqueness. But it's the story's twist—and I can't tell you what that is lest I risk spoilers—that make the narrator's ordinary life extraordinary and surprising. "Things are not what they seem" doesn't even begin to cover it. I'd venture to call this magical realism. I don't think that would be a stretch.

I guess all I can say is, if you liked Stead's earlier novel First Light, don't miss this one.

Buy When You Reach Me from an independent bookstore near you!

April 22, 2010

Further miscellany...

Glasgow Uni D 655
The first tulip of the season after the longest winter, ever.

Poor Volterra is being overrun with tourists. You know, the home of the Volturi? The imaginary Italian vampires from Twilight? Yeah. Them.

Tourists. Coming to see them. Except, Volterra itself isn't imaginary. It's a little Italian town who had no clue what anyone meant by Team Edward -- and weren't particularly interested in finding out. They've had to... learn to cope, while not getting run over and not turning the place where they have lived for centuries into a ticky-tacky tourist town (like the town next door, who threw themselves at filmmakers so they're in the movie, and not the actual town of Volterra! Volterra actually didn't care.) They appear to have found a way to deal - while still being able to look themselves in the mirror in the morning. Yay, Volterrans.

Has anyone else gotten the newsflash on WE GIVE BOOKS? It's ... a book giveaway. Or, rather, it's a book donation program which allows people to read some really excellent children's books online. For every free online book a parent and child read together, a book is donated in realtime to Books Across America, Haiti Learning Spaces, Books for Asia, or any of several other reading promotional organizations -- the reader gets to pick.

Are you looking for a catch? I was. I mean, these are actual books you've heard of, some classics like Beatrix Potter and The Little Engine That Could, some well-made new releases from DK Publishing and books like Spot Loves His Mommy. There are three read-together libraries for kids ages 0-3, 4-7 and 8-10, although not all age groups have books selected for them just yet. I paged through Animal Families from DK Publishing, and it was the same high-quality color photography that is in the paper text. Readers are given the option to just read the book online or buy it, of course, and I have a feeling that a lot of families will buy the book, so that they can read it and touch pages instead of screen. But reading is free -- always. The giveaway is sponsored by The Penguin Group and The Pearson Foundation. "We Give Books," the people said. It appears they do.

Check it out. Unless there's something that I'm missing, this is a easy way to support reading initiatives in the U.S. and abroad, and spend some lap time with a little person as well. [Via Publishers Weekly]

National Poetry Month is almost over! Are you getting your daily dose of poetry?

April 21, 2010

Midweek Miscellany

Woodlands Road 78

Ah, Wednesday. Somewhat deflated, but still afloat...

I've never read any of Hope Larson's graphics, but apparently they've won Eisner Awards, which are a big deal in the comics/graphics industry. (Nothing to do with Disney, either. I swear.) I'm glad this writer/illustrator is so well regarded, because she's treading on some almost sacred ground - she's making a graphic out of A Wrinkle in Time! From her blog:

"If you’re worried about me messing with a book that means so much to so many people, well, I understand. It’s impossible for an adaptation to capture everything that makes the original work so special. Please know that I’m treating the book with respect and sticking as close to the original as possible, while making the changes that need to be made so it sings as a graphic novel."

I'm always in favor of authors who know that they're dealing with a well-loved work; here's hoping her sensitivity stands her in good stead during. After all, it means more readers for L'Engle, and more people working on time traveling via tesseract. [Source: SF Signal.]

Okay, at some point, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. Tim Burton, after being amused by the book trailer is allegedly turning the book Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, to film. Seriously.

The first mash-up was... original, thus briefly amusing. The next one felt a bit exploitative, and like people were making a quick buck off of the Austen estate. Now it's starting to feel ridiculously like this mashup thing is a Facebook meme gone real-world. Not sure that's a line that should be crossed...

Every week, the world gets just that much weirder.

To end on a more amusing note: Penguin Books Australia is advocating cannibalism in its cookbook division...!

Isabella Rosselini, not content with merely acting out the courtship rituals of insects with her last Sundance hit, has now taken on cuttlefish. Ducks. ...bedbugs... The animal world is disturbingly hilarious, as always.

Kelly Armstrong's third YA novel The Reckoning has a really interesting looking trailer,

And, Sir Terry Pratchett gives an update on Going Postal, Woot!

Yesterday being Earth Day, Julie Larios had the most beautiful picture postcard to the world at her site. Check it out.

Colleen's got the numbers for the Guys Lit Wire Book Drive thus far. I like how she puts it, "As harsh as this world can be, it's also fairly beautiful sometimes."


April 17, 2010

April Graphic Novel Roundup

That's right, I'm still not quite caught up on my reviews. Here's an attempt to get a few written and cross one more thing off the to-do list. (Ahhh, the crossing off feels SO good...)

In Foiled, a graphic novel for teens from First Second, the fantabulous Jane Yolen--writer extraordinaire of a myriad of books for children and young adults--branches out into the comics arena with the story of Aliera Carstairs, a girl who doesn't fit in anywhere at school but can fence like nobody's business. But when uber-cute new student Avery Castle shows up and starts actually talking to her, she finds she might be interested in more than just fencing foils, reading, and role-playing games...and that's when the REALLY strange and inexplicable things start to happen. This book has a great premise and story--one that I really wish had been fleshed out more, actually--and charming and fitting illustrations by Mike Cavallaro. I requested a review copy from the publisher.

Buy Foiled from an independent bookstore near you!

The New Brighton Archeological Society, Book One: The Castle of Galomar, by Mark Andrew Smith and Matthew Weldon, is a classic-style story of kids who wander into a strange world of fantasy and adventure, chock-full of misunderstood goblins, homicidal fairies, and monsters of the evil and not-so-evil persuasion. Cooper and Joss, and Becca and Benny, have been orphaned after their parents were killed on an exploration trip. When they go to stay with their godparents, they stumble upon their parents' magical secret world—and the reason for their parents' deaths. The exciting and colorful artwork and adventuresome themes will appeal to elementary and middle-grade readers. Though the story doesn't contain anything particularly new, it's got fun, humor, and—a special bonus—multicultural characters. I requested a review copy from the publisher after an initial inquiry by the author.

Buy The New Brighton Archeological Society, Book One from an independent bookstore near you!

Pride and Prejudice: The Marvel Comics Graphic Novel. What can I say? I was startled to see it in my library, so naturally I had to pick it up. Classic works of literature can be great candidates for graphic novelization, though—as a kid I had graphic versions of Macbeth and The Devil's Dictionary, and I read them just as eagerly and repeatedly as I read my other books and comics. This adaptation of Pride and Prejudice by Nancy Butler and Hugo Petrus was really well-done, particularly in terms of the storytelling and layout. I was surprised how well the story lent itself to a graphic novel format, and I guess that's kudos to the author who adapted it. The character art was a little odd, in that the Bennet sisters all looked like 1980s magazine pinups to me, but generally speaking, I liked this one. The artwork appropriately supported and enhanced the text, making the language easier to follow—that, to me, is always a plus with graphic adaptations of works written in a more formal style. I checked this book out from the Stanislaus County Library.

Buy Pride and Prejudice: The Graphic Novel from an independent bookstore near you!

April 15, 2010

Thursday Procrastination Fun!

PSSST! Heard about the kidlitosphere's own Jen Robinson and her big, big news? Go check it out!

Before I amuse and astound you all with a handful of enjoyable links (or rather, amaze you with how behind the times I am in posting them), anyone who IS a Cybils winner or finalist, or KNOWS one, please read this post describing how you or your publisher can get super-nifty Cybils award stickers for your book! Great for conferences and signings! There's no year on the sticker, so winners or finalists from past years can use them, too. Help support the Cybils and our cool prizes for winning authors/illustrators--buy stickers for your books! EVERYTHING MUST GO!

OK, now that that's out of the way, here are a few YA book lists to think about from Flavorwire (via my friend Fumi): 10 Literary Classics Made Better as Comic Books (what a claim!! go check it out), 10 Best Young Adult Books for Grownups (not sure some of these are actually YA, but whatever, The Westing Game is still awesome), and, just for fun, 10 Awesome and Inappropriate Books for Kids.

Did you know it's National Library Week? Susan Kusel at Booklights reminds us to be sure to thank a library worker for their unflagging toil in a time when libraries seem to be underfunded (if not underappreciated--though I appreciate mine regularly!). And Greg Pincus has created a great little video over at The Happy Accident reminding us why libraries rock. So, thanks, libraries and library workers for your super awesomeness!

Bonus linkage: If you're like me and stress about whether you're blogging too much or not enough or don't have anything to say or any of the myriad of little pestering thoughts that keep us from paying proper attention to our blogs, go check out Lee's Zen of Blogging website--his weekly tips are reassuring, thoughtful, and--I'll just come right out and sound dorky--mentally rejuvenating. Honestly.

April 09, 2010

Yes, yes, yes. We all know:

"Tanita hates book-to-film adaptations."

Sir Terry Pratchett often is an advisor, and even has a cameo when his books are adapted to film... and I love the chaotic, insane book, GOING POSTAL.

...so. Just might have to watch this.

I mean, David Suchet (Agatha Christie’s Poirot) is in it. DAVID. SUCHET.

No word on a release date, and no word on when it's going to get to the U.S. - I'll keep you posted.

April 07, 2010

Two Weeks to Change the World

Guys Lit Wire is at it again.

Last year, their successful Book Fair For Boys netted 600+ books for the LA County Detention Center in just two weeks. This year, our book drive turns another direction - to two reservation schools: Ojo Encino Day School in the Navajo Nation, and Alchesay High School, on the White Mountain Apache Reservation. Both schools have tons of willing readers and both schools have substandard libraries and rarely to never get brand new books.

And there's your opportunity.

GLW and our partner,readergirlz, asked these two schools for a wishlist, and came up with an amazing amount of nonfiction requests, sports novel requests, and of course, fantasy -- because vampires cross every culture and nation.

It's been an experience for Colleen (GLW) to create these wishlists. It sort of tears me up that she didn't get a lot of responses to her emails at first because the people at the schools didn't believe she was serious. Free books? SERIOUSLY? And then, the excitement, when the students realized that a wishlist means you can ask for anything.

"Books are still gold. The emails I have received in the past week or so from Alchesay as the kids realized they could ask for books to come their way have been great. And with their internet hookup (more reliable than Ojo Encino) they are going to check their wish list everyday to see what is coming. They are so excited - both schools are so incredibly excited. Yes, the ipad and kindle and whatever else are all wonderful and good but these are kids who do not own a book.

Think about that. Not one single book." - Colleen

If you've ever played with an old-fashioned Roberval Balance Scale in science lab, you know that even moving a few grains of sand, or a single weight from one pan to the other will make a change. A few inexpensive books -- the cumulative price of making coffee at home for two weeks, or walking the few blocks to the library instead of driving -- would be a huge step toward changing the world for these kids. I'm still so astounded by the power of story -- the luxury of a book is that it is an inexpensive way to get away from where you are, and choose someplace else to be, whether through educating yourself away from where you are, or just briefly escaping. This is the gift you have the power to give, and even one book will make a difference.

Ready to shift a few grains of sand? Colleen tells you how:

First, hit the Powells site and on the upper right click on "wish list". From there you will be prompted for the email address of the list owner. Type in "guyslitwire@gmail.com". You will then be given the choice to select either Ojo Encino or Alchesay. Once you are looking at the lists (which contain hundreds of titles) you can make your selection of a new, used, or sale copy. After your done and ready to make your purchase you will be asked to confirm that you are buying books for a certain wishlist. Checking those boxes will keep the lists up to date and prevent books from appearing as unsold even after they were purchased. Now all you have to do is enter the mailing addresses, and here they are:

Mary Nickless
Ojo Encino Day School Librarian
HCR 79 Box 7
Cuba, NM 87013

Marilyn Hill
Alchesay High School
200 Falcon Way
Whiteriver, AZ 85941

CAUTION: Right now Powells is having trouble shifting from one wishlist to the next. So if you want to buy for each school then go all the way through one order and complete it and then start the next one fresh. I've sent an email and hopefully they will get this fixed quick.

Please leave a comment at GLW or send an email so Colleen can keep up a running tally during the two weeks of names and places where the book buyers are from. This will allow the students to see how far away we might be from them, but how close in heart, and will hopefully make them feel really special.

And please -- repost this, and broadcast widely. We have two weeks to change a little corner of the world. No time to lose!

April 05, 2010

Wicked Cool Overlooked Books: Old Skool Asimov

Aaargh! I'm beginning to get the feeling that I cannot keep up! Surely it's not already April!

But, it is. Last month found A.F. and me doing some ruthless revisions, and I realized with horror that I had nothing for WCOB this month. And then I realized -- I've been reading this cool old book by a guy named Paul French...

By the time he died, science fiction demigod, Isaac Asimov, had nearly five hundred books in a variety of genres to his name. This prolific writer was approached by his editor in 1951, when he'd already written his first handful of books, to write a juvenile science fiction series, with the idea that the book would be used as a jumping off point for a TV series.

Now, Mr. Asimov was not a big fan of TV. I think he and I might have even agreed that the book-to-film adaptation thing is an abomination unto Nuggan. Embarrassed about the series before it even happened, Asimov invented the pen-name of Paul French just so that he could avoid being tied to what he just knew was going to be a completely crap TV series. (Way to have faith in the people paying you, Mr. Asimov.)(Though I totally feel his pain.) It took him a matter of months to craft the first volume in the series, and David Starr was born.

David Starr has a hero's tragic beginnings -- his parents both have died battling aliens, and his mother's last loving act was to shove his infant self into an escape pod, and eject him from their aircraft, all whilst still shooting with one hand. Now a newly elected member of the Council of Science, the governing body for the planets of the Solar System, of which Earth and Mars are members -- this orphaned biophysicist finds his first case dumped into his lap. In a restaurant, he witnesses a man die -- who had only taken the first few bites of his dessert.

He was poisoned, like so many others on Earth are being poisoned; dying quickly and horribly from a substance no one can trace, and no one can survive. The only clue in each of the deaths is that they were eating food from produce raised on Mars. Is someone on Mars trying to kill off Earth? The Council of Science is investigating -- and David slips out from his guardians' protection and travels to Mars to investigate the deaths for himself.

Thus, the hero begins his journey!

A.) With fact that this series was made for a TV series, and B.) with a character name like David Starr, and C.) with name of the series being Lucky Starr, you know very well that Mr. Space Ranger is going to go to Mars, kick some patootie, and solve the mystery. But, of course! But the fun is found in the style of writing -- this is supposed to be Earth in 2100, and the technology of the fifties is clearly visible on every page. All the things that people dreamed of back then are real in Starr's world. When he meets the Martians - bodiless, mind-to-mind communicators, who have surpassed the piddling annoyances of matter, in their triumph over time and space -- their tech is even better.

Each step along the archetypal hero's journey is also carefully illuminated. Starr is an orphaned child, destined for greatness, taking a journey, finding a new name, and then returning with his new position, his new strengths, and his new self all intact. There is something tremendously satisfying about reading a book which characterizes a hero's journey, despite pretty much knowing what's going to happen already from A-Z.

It's old-school science fiction - a little quaint, a little dated especially those HORRIFYING but traditional SF covers -- but spectacularly cool, in the way only Asimov could write it.

Oh, and about that TV series -- it fell through, after all Asimov's panic. The writer, intrigued by his own creation, continued to create the Lucky Starr books, and a few novels in, introduced the three laws of robotics which famously appeared in his short story Runaround, published in 1942, and in every other robot or Foundation novel he ever wrote thereafter -- so his fans soon knew the truth about Paul French.

So, that's my Wicked Cool Overlooked Book this month! There are so, so, so many Asimov books that I could pretty much read on from here to breakfast, but I like that this one has such a backstory to it on its own, and I'd never heard of it until just recently. It's a quick, classic read.

You'll find David Starr, Space Ranger and the other five books in the Lucky Starr series probably at an independent bookstore like Powells or AbeBooks, because they have stuff that's older and out of print. Look for it -- it's still out there.

April 04, 2010

Graphic Novel Greek Myths--What's Not to Love?

Book source: review copy sent by the publisher, First Second.

Greek myths. Some of the oldest tales on Earth, yet they just don't "get old." As proven by our constant reinterpretations of them, all the way to the currently-popular Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, we've got a fascination for the way the ancient Greeks interpreted the world's creation and the mighty beings that imbue it with life, wisdom, power, and vengeance.

The first book in a new Olympians series by George O'Connor for First Second, Zeus: King of the Gods is a fun and informative introduction to the mythology of the Greek pantheon, and is well-suited both for parents to read with/to their children as well as for older children and middle-grade readers to explore on their own. And, if you're a mythology fan like me, you'll just re-read it until it falls apart and you're old. You should see my copy of D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths—which is also one of the recommended books for further reading that the author lists at the end of the book.

It is, in fact, the extras that really made this volume for me. Discussion questions, factoids, explanations of some of the decisions the author made in his retelling, further reading, and trading-card-style spreads enabling us to get to know some of the significant characters in this chapter of the story and their modern-day legacy. The story itself is simply and clearly shown, with some clear fun had by the author in drawing the exciting titan-clashing fight scenes. And while a few minor liberties are taken in the retelling, the author explains his choices and encourages readers to explore the original stories on their own. A series with a lot of potential for home and classroom enjoyment, IMHO. Says the mythology enthusiast...

Buy Zeus: King of the Gods from an independent bookstore near you!

April 02, 2010

I Just Realized Something:

IT'S APRIL!!!!!! IT'S ALMOST OUT!!!!!!!!
*quiet squee*

If you're dying and can't wait 'til April 12th like the rest of us, here: read the first six chapters, courtesy of Theodosia (and her fab publisher!).

Chapter One,

Chapter Two,

Chapter Three,

Chapter Four,

Chapter Five,

Chapter Six.

(If you haven't read Book 2 of Theodosia's tales, Stop. Go directly to The Serpents of Chaos. Do not Pass Go.)

You can pre-order now, you know. Theodosia and the Eyes of Horus is available at an independent bookstore near you!