May 26, 2010

If it weren't in LA County, I'd move to Cerritos...

The images are copyrighted, so I won't use one here, but people, it's beautiful. I mean, look at the entrance to the Children's Library at the bottom right (just click on the smaller picture and it'll grow). And the aquarium!!!

Posh. That's really the only word for it.

May 24, 2010

Via Tor: Nnedi Okorafor on Africa and YA SF

Want some Monday Morning SciFi Goodness? Nnedi Okorafor is the author of Zahrah the Windseeker and The Shadow Speaker, two books which I haven't yet gotten hold of in the UK, but am looking forward to finding. In this podcast, she chats influences, publication path and other writerly stuff with John Adams and David Kirtley, and also talks about HER NEW NOVEL: woot!

Here ya go.

May 21, 2010

The Summer Blog Blast Tour Presents: Nancy Bo Flood

Wednesday we celebrated Gunnerkrigg Court, our favorite webcomic, which brings a story to life weekly online. Story 2.0 continues today with our first downloaded novel.

Warriors in the Crossfire was offered at as a free .pdf for a limited time, to jump-start interest in the novel, and to provide a unique way to intrigue readers and familiarize them with the site and the brand.

It worked. For us, anyway. And it's interesting and timely to consider whether this can be a viable model, with Amazon's recent decision to separate out its free-to-download books from its Kindle bestseller list, and Publishers Weekly raising the question of whether the free downloads will be as useful a marketing tool as a result.

Here now is our interview with author Nancy Bo Flood, author of MG/YA novel Warriors in the Crossfire as well as picture book The Hogan that Great-Grandfather Built and non-fiction children's titles including Sand to Stone and Back Again and The Navajo Year.

Finding Wonderland: Hi, Nancy, and welcome to Wonderland.

Reading Warriors in the Crossfire, and Colleen's interview with Michael Trinklein this past week, I was struck by how little I knew about the island of Saipan, its history, or its role in the events of the Second World War. (Most people don't even realize that Saipan is a commonwealth protectorate of the United States.) More attention is generally given to the "big events" like Pearl Harbor, especially as time passes and the many individual battles recede from memory. What led you to write about the war as experienced by the citizens of Saipan?

Nancy Bo Flood: I was there, teaching the children and grandchildren of the war’s survivors. Saipan is a tropical island in the western Pacific, the kind one imagines with sweeping white-sand beaches and clear turquoise-blue waters. World War II haunts both land and sea, its presence washes in and out like the tide. I stood at Suicide Cliff where hundreds leaped to their deaths. When I wrote Joseph's story, I wanted to write a realistic and honest story that expressed not only the horror and destruction of war but the amazing resiliency of the human heart to survive, rebuild and forgive.

Few Americans know of Saipan. This island and the other 14 islands of the Marianas archipelago are part of the United States! These islands are far from mainland US – the Pacific Ocean stretches over nearly half of the world - but these islands have been critical to global history and to the Pacific battles of WWII. From Saipan and Tinian, US bombers made direct assaults on Japan, the most famous was the Enola Gay, loaded with the atomic bomb, it flew to Hiroshima.

Wonderland:That is indeed a grim piece of history that Americans should remember.

War is a continual horror, but in Warriors there is a specific moment when the tide of the war turns, and many Japanese lives are lost – civilians whose leaders believed in the phrase “Death before dishonor.” Nancy, this is pretty heavy stuff for a book that is for middle grade readers! When you’re book-talking this book with young readers, how do you justify telling this story? Do you feel there’s ever a time to hold back from telling the truth, to protect the innocence of younger readers?

NBF: What do we tell children about war? Most of the children in the world live in circumstances that many are afraid to describe in books for children. How ironic!

Does silence protect? Truth told with sensitivity, told appropriately to a child’s age – is that lack of protection or is it empowerment? When children are old enough to choose, do we want them to make informed choices about how best to settle disagreements? Or do we want them to choose war?

Heroism in war often is glorified and romanticized. Yes, of course there are heroes. Amazing heroes. During war, there are also heroic deeds done in daily quiet ways. Risking your life to get water. Sharing a precious piece of food.

War destroys childhood as it shatters schools and communities, takes parents and siblings as soldiers, and makes children into refugees.

If we want children to choose peaceful alternatives to diminish conflict, I believe we need to allow them a look at what war means. In the United States we are protected from what war really means, except for those who are deployed and their families.

I thought long and hard about these comments made by Melanie Newman, University of Winchester, in, Vol 2 book reviews:

“The moving description of the tragic events that took place when the Japanese realized they were losing the battle for the island left me wondering if the book was a little stark…The truth is that children encounter war and tragedy frequently on TV but here is a form of creative expression with more emotional impact than dramatic effect. It sparked a debate in my mind about the balance between protecting children from the distressing effects of conflict and helping them to see through it in such a way that it helps them to make judgments in their own lifetime…

My lasting impression is of beauty and peace battered by politics and power; even if beauty prevails, the cost is shocking and memorable – as is Warriors Caught [sic] in the Crossfire.”

May 20, 2010


It's baaaaaaaaack...

The 5th Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge is JUNE 4-6, 2010
Can you believe it? The fun kick-off-the-summer-reading gig is now in its FIFTH YEAR! And it's not just indulgent reading for fun and prizes anymore. Sez MR:

"Last year we began to connect the 48HBC to charitable causes, and folks were able to connect their personal readathon to a Greater Good of their choice. While you may continue to select your own charity, I’m going to suggest supporting book and literacy projects through Donors Choose, a great resource that connects teachers in need of supplies to donors with funds to give. For myself, I plan to donate $1 per hour read to this DC school and welcome others — perhaps those not able to do the challenge this year — to sponsor me. Other participants can contribute to this cause and even this school as well, or to something else that moves you. Your readathon can be based on sponsors, comments, books read, or something else entirely. You can also choose not to participate in this aspect of the 48 Hour Book Challenge, though you may find a way to support others’ efforts by leaving comments (if that’s what is being tallied)."

(For an extra bonus, you can read a Dan Gutman book - since he's being banned, he needs the support.)

Sign up with MotherReader, stockpile your books, then:
     get ready....
       get set...

...but, before you run off!

POP Ups and Matthew Reinhart @ Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Fabulous Falcon Quinn and Jenny Boylan @ Fuse Number 8, SLJ
Starry eyes and Lisa Mantchev @ Writing & Ruminating
Feedback with Tara Kelly @ Shaken & Stirred
Saintliness and Donna Freitas @ Little Willow's Bildungsroman

Rock on, Thursday!

May 19, 2010

The Summer Blog Blast Tour Presents: Tom Siddell

Story 2.0: Interactivity. Breaking down barriers between creator and audience. Whatever you want to call it, we're celebrating it here at FW during this year's Summer Blog Blast Tour.

We started on Monday with the Hazardous Players, and we're continuing today with Tom Siddell, author and illustrator of the webcomic-turned-graphic novel Gunnerkrigg Court: Vol. 1, Orientation, which won a 2009 Cybils Award in the teen graphic novels category. (The equally fabulous Vol. 2: Research is also available now!)

Rather like Gunnerkrigg's protagonist Antimony, Mr. Siddell is rather elusive, but we've coaxed some information out of him and thus elaborated a bit on the man behind the storytelling...and the artist behind the boyish (and ever-so-slightly unnerving) self-portrait.

Also, in tribute to our absolute adoration of Mr. Siddell and his fantastical, funny and mysterious work, we'd like to present a little artwork of our own--more precisely, a.fortis's friend Jay's artwork. Jay created this plushy creature as a sort of three-dimensional Coyote after we lent her a copy of the first volume of GK: Orientation. And Plushy Coyote now sits above a.fortis's desk as an inspirational mascot. (Tanita remains bitterly jealous.) Thank you, Tom Siddell, for inspiring us and for being a part of our Story 2.0 edition of the SBBT, which we present forthwith.

Finding Wonderland: When you first started Gunnerkrigg Court, did you set out to create something that would appeal to younger/teen readers? If you had a particular audience in mind, did that affect how you chose to approach the story or its content? What do you think are the greatest rewards and challenges of writing for a young adult age group?

Tom Siddell: Originally the story was going to be more adult, but I soon realised that it would be unnecessary to make it so. I decided instead to try and write a story that didn't fall back on any particular crutch to hook an audience. Loads of webcomics (or comics in general, I suppose) use sex or violence to draw in the readers but I didn't see how that would add to the story I wanted to write. I'll definitely avoid certain things now that I have a young adult/all ages audience in mind, but I don't want to pull too many punches or treat the audience like babies. Having a broader appeal simply means the comic is accessible to a larger amount of people, and I've heard from people of all ages who have enjoyed it.

FW: You mentioned in an earlier interview that Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is one of your all-time favorite graphic novel series. (We love Miyazaki, too!) What are some recent favorites? What three graphic novels do you think every young adult should read?

TS: Aside from the Nausicaa books themselves, which I think everyone should read, I'd also recommend Hellboy and Bone. I don't read too many physical comics these days, mainly because it's hard to find something I'm interested in. It's a lot easier to read comics on-line, and there is a much wider range of stuff you'd never see in the shops.

FW: Readers of Gunnerkrigg Court can easily find a number of mythological and literary influences in your work--the trickster Reynardine, faerie creatures, etc. Did you have any particular mythology in mind when you created the story? What are some of your favorite stories or characters from myth and legend?

TS: I knew I wanted to include a wide range of mythologies in the story because I didn't want to focus on just one or two legends. I find the idea of all the world's mythologies living in the same realm and interacting with each other a very interesting concept. I don't think I can think of any myths or legends that I didn't find interesting, I like hearing about them all. Those old stories tell us a lot about ourselves as human beings.

FW: That's really true, and I think that's a lot of the reason why such a wide variety of people read your webcomic as well.

In other interviews, you have referred to yourself as an "amateur" graphic novelist. Does this mean you’ve not had any art courses or drawing classes? How do you draw Gunnerkrigg – with traditional pen-and-paper media, or directly on the computer? What programs or media do you use?

TS: No, outside of doing art classes in school (in which I was absolutely the worst, literally) I've not had any drawing or art classes. In fact, I was so bad at it, I went on to do Computer Science at university instead, much to the relief of my parents and everyone else. A lot of the time I wish I'd learned properly, but other times I know I might have ended up hating art if I did it at university (in the same way I hate computers now), and it would have been harder to find a job at the end of it. Some people seem to have a natural aptitude for art, but I certainly don't, and it's been difficult trying to teach myself. I try as best as I can but I still can't get things to look just right, and I have a long way to go towards becoming a decent artist.

As for technical details, I drew the first 17 chapters with ink and paper, but after that I switched to all digital. I just use Photoshop and sometimes Painter.

FW: Well, we really, really like your work, and can't wait to see what your stuff will look like when you're what you consider a "decent artist!"

What does a typical drawing weekend look like for you? What’s the most difficult part of telling Antimony, Kat, and Reynardine's story – the artwork, or the story arc? Unlike many other anime tales, each of the particular threads of the story arc which you begin to explore, you actually come back to – allowing the reader to be confident that all mysteries will eventually be revealed. How do you deal with continuity, with such an extensive story arc and so many episodes? Do you already know the story you will tell? Have you taken writing courses or, like Reynardine, do you simply read a lot?

TS: The weekend is the only time I get to work on my comic, really, so it's devoted entirely to that. I try to start as early as I can on Saturday which is around mid-day after I have done all my usual errands. I try to get a page done by 8:00. Then on Sunday I get up at 6:00 in the morning and work until 7:00 in the evening getting two more pages done. I have to do at least three pages in one weekend or I will start to slip behind. The physical drawing is the hardest part for me, and it is the part that takes the longest, but it is easy to find yourself unable to continue if something hasn't been written properly. I've not taken writing classes (something else I wish I could do), but I do try to make sure I'm not throwing stuff into the story without reason. Readers can rest assured that I'll get around to answering all the questions I've asked in the story at some point, even if I don't get to it right away. It's difficult to edit the story since I have to put it online a page at a time and can't really go back and change stuff, but I do know where the plot is going and try to make sure I'm not writing myself into any corners.

FW: So, by day you’re a video game graphic artist, and by nights – and weekends – a cape-and tights wearing graphic novelist superhero. Were you encouraged in your love of art and imagination as a young adult? What does your family think of your success?

TS: I got in trouble a lot for getting wrapped up in comics when I was younger, and my drawings were so bad it became uncomfortable for anyone to look at them, so I learned to keep all that kind of stuff to myself. I don't currently know anyone in real life who draws, or reads comics, so it is a solitary gig! My family knows I have a comic and that it is available in books somewhere, but they don't read it and since I don't actually make any money off the comic, the "success" is pretty intangible to anyone not already into webcomics. I think this is common for anyone who works on comics, really. I'm no Jason Beeber or Beyonce Stephens, I still got to get a bus to work every day and sit in an office in order to stay alive!

FW: If only those people on the bus knew...

Gunnerkrigg Court itself is such a place of awesome – side-by-side rooms of magic and science; ghosts with robots, weird fairies in the wood and mythical totem gods. However, we see in more ways than one that the world is divided, at the same time that it is diverse. Antimony herself is a bit of an outcast, different from the other students because of her backstory as well as her unique interests and abilities. Is this theme of identity and alienation a theme that you deliberately set out to include, or did it arise organically as your ideas developed? What attracted you to writing a story with such drastic—but intriguing—juxtapositions?

TS: I wanted it to be a sort of lonely comic. At least the setting and backdrop is fairly lonely. Antimony is a girl who doesn't really know her place in life, or even how to get along with people her own age. In fact, she is more used to dealing with the psychopomps or mythical creatures than she is just mingling with her classmates. She learns things as the story rolls on, stuff about her parents or the Court, through the strange situations she gets into and the odd creatures she meets, but her personality really develops when she's just doing normal things other people would take for granted. Kat was definitely her lifeline to being a normal girl. Kat, also, finds in Annie things she wouldn't normally come across if they weren't friends. I wanted to show that kind of relationship, and duality is a theme I've used throughout the comic.

FW: You have such a vibrant community of fans online with the Gunnerkrigg Wiki. What's your favorite (and least favorite) part of being able to interact directly with your readers this way? How has it shaped or changed the storyline, to have others read it and comment back – or has it?

TS: I've learned to keep my mouth shut! People always say that you should never meet your heroes because you will always be disappointed. Well I know what it's like to be the guy people are always disappointed in meeting, so I think it is better if I keep out of things as much as possible. My favourite part is hearing about people from all walks of life who enjoy the comic. I can't think of anything better. My least favourite thing is that it is easy to feel down about the things some people say on the Internet!

My storyline hasn't changed based on reader feedback, however. I knew that would be a risky road to travel, so I only write what I want to write.

FW: Write what you want: that's really the only smart thing to do, and it's really worked out well so far!

Bonus Round

* Do you consider yourself a writer or an illustrator? Neither!
* Do you prefer Ink or Computer? Computer!
* Are you an early bird or a night owl? I go to bed early to get up at 6 every day but I hate mornings!
* Will we ever get the scoop on what’s up with Zimmy? Yes!

FW: THANK YOU so much, Mr. Siddell, for dropping by - we really are honored!

Thank you so much to Tom Siddell for spending time on our questions and making us fangirls extremely happy. You can buy the Gunnerkrigg Court graphic novel in physical hardbound form, or start right here with Chapter 1. BUT, READER BEWARE: Gunnerkrigg Court may be habit forming. Ask your physician if Gunnerkrigg Court is right for you. Gunnerkrigg Court readers are at risk of developing a major update dependence on this webcomic. Read only as directed.

Meanwhile, the Summer Blog Blast Tour continues with:

May 18, 2010

CONGRATULATIONS to all the Nebula Winners!

...and to John Awesome Scalzi, who is now the president of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. Woot!

Ooh, and you know who won the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy? Catherynne M. Valente, that's who. And did you know what for? For her online novel, THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN MAKING. Which, did I mention, was an online novel, which you could read online?


But! Before you run off, don't forget about the Summer Blog Blast Tour, which includes the juicy goodness of:

May 17, 2010

The Summer Blog Blast Tour Presents: The Hazardous Players

Summer's Almost Here!

It's time for that beloved tradition (well, for the last few years, anyway) called the Summer Blog Blast Tour, where Aquafortis and I, along with a lot of the gang in the kidlitosphere, get together to celebrate story and the authors and illustrators who make good children's literature possible. Our sort of "theme" this week is STORY, 2.0 -- because each of our interviewees this week comes at story from a new and different angle.

Our first guest this week is William, spokesman and producer of The Hazardous Players and self-described dead ringer for the Mythbusters' Adam Savage. The Hazardous Players is made up of William, Lewis and Justin (and for the sake of today's chat, Lewis and Justin are the silent partners. You'll also note that they've all left off their last names!), and together, the three of them as artists, storytellers, and actors, create what they call Knighttime.


a.) "...a nontraditional approach to literature..."
b.) "...a fantasy adventure where we plan on constructing multiply narratives using various media..."
c.) An original, episodic fantasy which is really an old-time radio show/graphic novel mashup
d.) All of the above

It's really hard to choose anything but d. What other story site has an audio component, graphic illustration, a sort of goes-with-the-story illustrated guide to the strange flora and fauna of the region, and the occasional professorial dispatch, complete with very amusing sound effects? A safe, fun world for a kid to get immersed in, a labor of love from a Dad to his son, Knighttime will be a real find for families this summer who are looking for interactive stories to share.

Finding Wonderland: Welcome to our blog! On your site, you mention that you repeatedly met your fellow players at various comic book conventions and the like, before you talked them into creating Knighttime. Your site mentions your children – who else was the initial audience for a work like this? How has your kids’ feedback shaped the story? What was the spark that brought the stories to life online? How does team storytelling work for you? What does a typical Players planning session look like? What is the division of labor in reference to artwork and story?

Hazardous Players: My son, Sam, was the initial audience. For years Sam had to endure my dramatic interpretations of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, whatever the current piece of literature we were reading. The characters of Sir Cottington and Sir Bratwurst made their first appearance at Sam’s tenth birthday. Often for Sam’s birthdays I constructed massive treasure hunts throughout the park adjacent to our house, and for his tenth I came up with Cottington and Bratwurst and attempted to make recordings of the knights, which, when the kids found them hidden throughout the park, would reveal the next clue in the hunt. Later, I reluctantly played the tapes for a few people including Justin and Lewis. They encouraged me to continue with it and expand the story to include art and such. So I asked them to come along for the ride and contribute their talents as well, even though they are both painfully shy (I would even say pathologically shy if it wasn’t rude, so I won’t say that). Together we became the Hazardous Players.

We began distributing recordings, plus a small book of art I produced, to friends and other parents. From that we started getting very favorable responses, plus we acquired a few young fans. I even performed it live with Sam (an aspiring actor), in full costume, at a small story telling festival, and the response was very positive. That kept us motivated to keep it going.

The internet seemed like the natural progression in Knighttime’s evolution. It allows us to grow the piece organically, making digressions into other tangential story lines that parallel the central Knighttime narrative and use whatever medium that best tells that part of the story, whether it’s writing, art or audio. Though we plan on producing more traditional modes of story telling, such as books and CD’s, the website gives us the opportunity to experiment with the narrative and see immediate results.

Wonderland: Wow! Live performances already! That's awesome!

From the professional-looking site, to the sketches, to the medieval theme song to announce each story, the whole of Knighttime is a labor of love that looks to take a lot of time. What are your day jobs? How do you balance the time it takes to produce Knighttime with the rest of your world? What do your other family members think of your labor-intensive hobby?

Hazardous Players: We all have full-time day jobs, which can make it a challenge getting the work produced. I work in a conservation lab of a museum. Conservation is where artwork goes if it's injured and needs some medical attention. It has been an interesting job over the years, and has allowed me to meet several modern and contemporary artists. My projects can range from un-framing Matisses to finding a way to dispose of four tons of Vaseline (not that easy, I assure you).

As a result much of the collaborative work is done virtually, during late night online sessions, so late it is the next day, in fact. We schedule real world meetings as often as everyone’s lives will permit, with everyone bringing ideas to the table. It can be difficult, and at the moment we are not able to produce as much as we would like. We are all dedicated to creating the work as long as people seem interested in the project, and hopefully it can eventually support itself and we can free up our schedules to give more time to the piece.

As for my family, well, my son is very supportive since he in a way was the motivation behind it. And he in many ways is a contributor, especially when he doesn’t laugh at a joke and then I know I need to retool it until I get at least a snort of a laugh. He and I have also been working towards producing a series of video "webisodes" featuring him, as one of the staff of the Henchwood's Guide, as he searches, ala Discovery Channel, for dangerous creatures in the Kingdom of Udenland in order to catalogue and enter them into the Guide. My wife has also been very supportive, she is an artist as well and understands the creative process, though she does show concern when I stagger to bed at two in the morning.

Wonderland: Can definitely understand your wife's concern! And though working as an art conservationist is a VERY cool job, just for the sake of argument, we won't even ask about the four tons of Vaseline. We just won't.

Knighttime has the feel of an audio comic book – a cross between an old-fashioned radio show and a serial fantasy story for a science fiction magazine. What are some of your influences in both areas? Who are your favorite young adult/children’s graphic novels or comics, and are there other online comics and/or story sites which you frequent? What’s the most recent children’s book which has caught your attention?

May 14, 2010

We're Baaaaack...

...and we're interviewing some REALLY AWESOME PEOPLE who are part of taking story to a new level. We kind of think of it as Story 2.0...

See you Monday!

May 12, 2010

7 Things To Do In Your Spare Time...

Oban D 44
Inflatable sheep, taped to a motorcycle... who knows why. Nice golf hat, though.

How to use today's spare time:
1. Briefly scream and make horrible "NOOOOOOOOO!" noises about Intoxibellas, and other stupidity,
2. Learn about self-publishing a la Amazon, from Mitali's two-part series,
3. Take a look at the project called A Series of Questions, which challenges assumptions and phobias about transgender people,
4. Be both worried and amused at how easily the stick figure comic, xkcd, has made the jump to the real world,
5. Start making plans for the 48 Hour Book Challenge - now, unbelievably, IN YEAR FIVE!
6. Hop on over to Chasing Ray's What A Girl Wants series, and check out the books we should have been reading back in the day. Enter the time capsule and send a few deep books to your high school self,

7. - BONUS THING TO DO: Have a day filled with at least five minutes of awesome.

May 06, 2010


Remake. The Dark Crystal.


Via SF Signal.

Dear Movie People:
I need to explain something to you. #1 - Not everything needs to be remade. #2 - Original Content is still a very good thing. An increasingly rare thing, yes, but trust me -- there are some original people still out there. You should hire them, and fire whomever thought this remake thing was a good idea. #3 - Just Say No to 3D. ALWAYS.

With dire affection,

May 05, 2010

Make My Day, Demon

How much do I love the title Soul Enchilada? Um, a lot. David Macinnis Gill has created a hilarious Tejano-flavored tale of demons, debts, and impending destruction, with a sassy and self-sufficient mixed-race narrator to boot. (You know how much we love THAT.)

Eunice "Bug" Smoot is 18 years old and used to fending for herself since her Auntie Pearl and her granddad Papa C died. She makes her living as the best pizza delivery driver in El Paso. But when a demonic repo man named Mr. Beals shows up one day demanding the return of her Papa C's Cadillac—her livelihood--she realizes she needs a little help. Supernatural help.

Luckily for Bug, the sexy and endearingly dorky Pesto Valencia, who works at the local car wash, happens to know a little something about getting rid of demons. UNfortunately, the car of Papa C's dreams is turning out to be the contract from hell for Bug. Add in a supernatural lawyer, patronizing bureaucratic demon hunters, an oddly intelligent and protective coyote, a preternaturally gifted basketball-playing nemesis, and a vindictive pizza delivery boss, and you've got a recipe for hilarity and mayhem.

The witty, snappy dialogue and the willingness to tackle issues of race and economic status without beating the reader over the head are two major strengths of this book. The plot careens around a bit, but I was very willing to go along for the ride; in fact, the breakneck pace seemed fitting, and all the threads came together in the end. And Bug, as a character, was spot on in my opinion. She was no wimpy damsel in distress, and in fact had trouble acknowledging when she needed help and was reluctant in accepting help.

A highly entertaining read that will probably appeal to fans of A.M. Jenkins' Repossessed.

Buy Soul Enchilada from an independent bookstore near you!

May 04, 2010

Hunger Mountain Auction

In case you've missed this at Cynsations, on April 29 and continuing through May 9th, the Hunger Mountain Spring Fundraiser has manuscript critiques for auction! If you're an aspiring author or poet, check this out, there's a lot to bid on. Of special interest: a full length Middle Grade novel critique with Michelle Poploff, Executive Editor at Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers, as well as a full-length picture book critique with Tanya Lee Stone; and a full length YA manuscript critique with some chick named Tanita.

If you're not sure what Hunger Mountain is all about, here's a bit of light reading for you.

May 03, 2010

Wicked Cool Overlooked Books: Brothers

April suddenly seems like it was a really short month.

Welcome to the first Monday in May - time again for Wicked Cool Overlooked Books.
As always, these books are not necessarily overlooked by the whole world - just me - and I'm excited to find them and celebrate them, occasionally along with Colleen, and an assortment of other people.

Anyone who's ever read anything I've written, from grad school on, knows I'm fascinated by family dynamics, and I'm a sucker for families that stick together through adversity. One of my favorite YA series was Cynthia Voight's Dicey's Song, the story of the Tillerman kids who were basically abandoned, and Dicey kept the family together. They managed to snag Tyne Daly as their grandmother, though, which meant they lived Happily Ever After. Kinda. At least in the Lifetime Movie.

I kind of fell in love with Alex and Nicky in The Demon's Lexicon. Nicky was not exactly endearing, but the force of the love his brother had for him just blew me away. So, it was a real treat to find Rob Thurman's Nightlife.

There are definite similarities to the two stories - both brother tales, both BIG PROBLEMS with the little brother -- but there the similarities fade. Cal is 17 and is mostly being raised by his older brother, Niko, who is perfect in every way, much to Cal's disgust. (Cal calls Niko Cyrano, since aside from being tall with waist-length blonde hair, his rather imposing nose is his only flaw.) Unlike our first pair of brothers, Niko is definitely the better at doing the heavy lifting -- he's bossy, makes Cal work out and pick up his share of the chores, and he has a sword and a number of black belts to back him up. Cal is all little brother -- sarcastic, annoying, and very amusing -- all of which is a cover for a lot of fear. His brother is all the family he really has, since his mother loathes him -- and makes sure Cal knows it, every chance she gets. Cal's father was only on scene long enough to impart his DNA, which is a big part of his mother's resentment. Oh, and Mom says Dad's a monster -- making Cal a half-monster.