ARE THE HUNGRIEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD!!!!
Sorry. But if it’s going to be caught in my head all day then I may as well share the love.
What has inspired today’s bout of cannibalism? A conversation at work, as it happens. Is it just me, or is there a whole lot more people eating in books for youth these days? Time was you could go through the stacks and not find a single title that referred to the devouring of human flesh without it having to do with animals, vampires, or zombies. These days it feels like you can’t get away from it.
Here then is a list that I can’t imagine you’ll have much use for. Still, in case you’re looking to do some interesting curricular tie-ins, consider the following examples of that strangest of diets:
The Secret of Ferrell Savage by J. Duddy Gill
This was my first clue that 2014 was shaping up to be more interesting than expected. First off, it wins points for its cover. As for the plot, it concerns a boy who has a crush on a girl. Nothing noteworthy there, until you discover that the boy’s ancestor sort of went off and ate the ancestor of said girl. Now he’s afraid someone will discover the family secret.
The Savages by Matt Whyman
This one isn’t quite sure what to call itself. On the one hand it seems to have a middle grade cover. On the other, it has a YA sensibility. Ultimately this one really isn’t for kids as much as it is teens. Like a contemporary Addams Family except that this follows a clan with a taste for people. Near as I can figure, this is the book to hand to the kid who really dug The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs. Hand it over then back away slowly . . .
Donner Dinner Party by Nathan Hale
A little nonfiction never hurt anybody. And this book, in spite of what we know about the story, is much more than just a bit of gnawing on bones. I still consider this the #1 best unknown series for kids out there. Read this then wait in anticipation with me for the next installment involving WWI!
The Lunatic’s Curse by F.E. Higgins
Like Nathan Hale’s book, this one came out a while ago. Though I was a big fan of the other books in this series, this is not Higgins’ best. The cannibalistic turn throws it over from mere penny dreadful to merely dreadful. Still, there are glimpses of brilliance, and I can honestly say that four years after I read it, I can remember parts of it vividly.
The Compound by S.A. Bodeen
This one’s YA so I didn’t read it myself, but when I was discussing this topic with some co-workers, mention was made of this book. The cannibalism appears to only serve as a threat, but I’m including it because as threats go it’s a pretty convincing one.
Anything I’ve forgotten? I feel like there may even be yet another 2014 title that touches on this subject area
Finally, should the title of this blog post be driving you slightly insane, you can exchange one cannibalistic ballad for another, if you simply listen to that old (and really not very p.c. but darn tongue-in-cheek) Flanders & Swann song The Reluctant Cannibal.
I like disciplines (cf. my half-marathon training going on now), but I also like where my life is now generally and don't feel a call to give anything up. Thus I'm going to adapt the House for All Sinners and Saints' 2012 Lenten Calendar for my own instead. Sharing my adapted version here (with dates for 2014) in case it interests you too:
March 5: Pray for your enemies
March 6: Buy a few $5 fast food gift cards to give to homeless people you encounter
March 7: Internet diet
March 8: Give $20 to a non-profit of your choosing
March 10: Take 5 minutes of silence at noon
March 11: Look out the window until you find something of beauty you had not noticed before
March 12: Give 5 items of clothing to Goodwill
March 13: No bitching day
March 14: Do someone else’s chore
March 15: Buy a few $5 fast food gift cards to give to homeless people you encounter
March 17: Call an old friend
March 18: Pray the Paper (pray for people and situations in today’s news)
March 19: Read Psalm 139 http://bible.oremus.org
March 20: Pay a few sincere compliments
March 21: Bring your own mug
March 22: Educate yourself about human trafficking www.praxus.org
March 24: Forgive someone
March 25: Internet diet
March 26: No sugar day – where else is there sweetness in your life?
March 27: Check out morning and evening prayer at http://dailyoffice.wordpress.com
March 28: Ask for help
March 29: Tell someone what you are grateful for
March 31: Introduce yourself to a neighbor
April 1: Read Psalm 121 http://bible.oremus.org
April 2: Bake a cake
April 3: No shopping day
April 4: Light a virtual candle http://rejesus.co.uk/spirituality/post_p
April 5: Light an actual candle
April 7: Write a thank you note to your favorite teacher
April 8: No shopping day
April 9: Use Freecycle www.freecycle.org
April 10: Donate art supplies to your local elementary school
April 11: Read John 8:1-11 http://bible.oremus.org
April 12: Worship at a friend’s mosque, synogogue or church and look for the beauty
April 14: Confess a secret
April 15: No sugar day – where else is there sweetness in your life?
April 16: Give $20 to a local non-profit
April 17: Educate yourself about a saint www.catholic.org/saints
April 18: Pray for peace
April 19: Pray for your enemies (you probably have new ones by now) then decide which of these exercises you’ll keep for good
The Griffin and the Dinosaur: How Adrienne Mayor Discovered a Fascinating Link Between Myth and Science
By Marc Aronson with Adrienne Mayor
Illustrated by Chris Muller
On shelves April 8th.
I remember back in 2007 when the American Museum of Natural History in NYC premiered a show called “Mythic Creatures”. It made a fair amount of press and with good reason. It’s not every day you see full-scale models of mythical creatures presented in a serious museum setting. The show got some nice write-ups but though I listened to the explanations of why it was going on, I didn’t quite catch the whole point. To me it just sort of sounded like a cheap ploy to lure more patrons into the museum’s exhibits. A bit of the old P.T Barnum, albeit with a classier imprimatur. Years passed and I forgot about the show right up until the publication of The Griffin and the Dinosaur. As I read the book, memories of the show came back to me, as did my complete and utter misunderstanding of what it had been trying to accomplish. Fortunately, I am happy to report that once in a while in this life a gal gets a second chance. With Marc Aronson and Adrienne Mayor’s hard work, now I have a book before me that clarifies the true connection between the prehistoric and the mythical. Focused through a single woman’s obsessive search, this book comes off as both a riveting historical mystery as well as a wonderful example of how a person’s passions might take them places they never imagined they might travel. The future isn’t written in stone but it might just be written in bones.
It was kind of a goofy idea. The sort of thing a person might consider off-handedly then forget about five minutes later. But for Adrienne Mayor, the idea stuck. It was simple too. You see, after doing lots of research at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, Ms. Mayor noticed a strange pattern. Reading texts by ancient Greeks she noticed that when they discussed creatures like griffins they always sounded like they knew about these animals firsthand. Is it possible that these creatures were conjured up after the Greeks found some ancient bones of one kind of another? Not a natural born scholar, Adrienne always considered herself more of an artist than anything else. Still, this question about the griffin’s origins intrigued her. What she could not have expected was how her search would take her from Greece to Samos to The Museum of the Rockies to distant China. Infinitely interesting, illustrated with multiple photographs, sketches, ancient images and contemporary illustrations, Mayor not only shows where our ancestors got their seemingly goofy ideas, but gives these people a form of credit and respect that is certainly their due.
Every Marc Aronson book is different. Generalizing is not something you can really do when you discuss him as an author. I have found in the past that some of his books ran a bit on the long and lengthy side, but beyond that there aren’t any real connecting threads between one project and another. Yet if I found Mr. Aronson to be a bit more loquacious at times than he needed to be, no such objection could possibly be leveled at The Griffin and the Dinosaur. Coming in at a svelte 48 pages, a number normally associated with slightly longer picture books, Aronson wastes no time getting to the meat of the matter. Turn to the first page and there’s Adrienne, age six. Four pages later she’s studying in Athens while her fiancé works on his ancient Greek fortress research. Aronson cuts to the chase, helped in large part by his interviews with Adrienne. The result is a well-rounded portrait of a single woman going against the odds to prove something both interesting and odd. It’s research presented to kids as adventure in a format they’re going to actually WANT to read. How rare is that?
I know that one reviewer of this book was dismayed by an interpretation of Marc Aronson’s message here that says that people who closely observe the world around them are just as good as professional scholars in the field. For the record, I do not happen to agree that that is what Aronson is saying. I think it far more likely that Aronson is displaying the need for balance. You can sit behind dusty tomes all day long with your professional degree hanging up upon a wall, but if you don’t go out and try new ideas and speak to new people and even do a bit of exploring (of one kind or another) then you cannot be surprised when a woman like Ms. Mayor goes about making a fabulous, hitherto unknown (or unproved) discovery. By the same token, the person who observes the world around them closely but never picks up a book or does even rudimentary research is going to completely miss the potential connections out there that could justify their work. Mayor exhibited both a willingness to learn and a sharp-eyed curiosity that was willing to question. In an era when so much research is beholden to outside interests, it does the heart good to read a book about a woman who set out to discover what many might have considered impossible to prove.
The extra details turn out to be just as enchanting. The entire history of the Scythians and how they might have been an inspiration for some of the Amazon women tales out there is captivating. Even more so their gold, as well as the discovery of Megalopolis. And then there’s that amazing look at mammoth skulls and how they might have inspired the stories of the Cyclops. It all got me to thinking about the role of myths in the world and their beginnings. Maybe a kid will read this book and begin to wonder what the roots of other great myths might be. Will they start poring over Hindi and Norse myths, looking for clues to the past? Or will they simply get a better sense of one of the big themes of the book: that ancient people had reasons for making up the stories that they did. For me, that was a moral well worth taking away from the story. We have a tendency to look down our nose at our ancient ancestors, but as this book shows, these people had their reasons for thinking the way that they did. We should never be so egotistical as to believe that we are the first people to find the bones of long extinct creatures and to make up reasons for their existence.
As for the art, for the most part it’s okay but artist Chris Muller gets off to a shaky start. His presence in the book makes a lot of sense. I could completely understand the need to ratchet up the kid-friendly elements of the story, of course. If you name your book The Griffin and the Dinosaur then you better bloody well have a couple griffins in there (to say nothing of the dinosaurs). In fact, when Muller is working on the mythical, he is at his best. The cover, for example, is striking, as are his images of an Amazon fighting a griffin or a sleeping griffin protecting its nest. Where it all breaks down is when he has to deal with reality. The publication page says that the paintings were made with “traditional media – pencil and watercolors – and digital painting.” Traditional media is fine with me, but the digital painting proves to be occasionally painful. For example, a preliminary image of young Adrienne dowsing above the skeleton of a dinosaur is baffling partly because I couldn’t find any mentions of dowsing in the text and partly because the CGI cloud cover contrasts horribly with the drawn Adrienne. It feels like a cheap image in an otherwise classy book. Happily, it is the only moment when I felt that way. Other images in the book border or plunge right into the fantastical, and that’s appropriate for the moments they tend to illustrate.
This is the Possession by A.S. Byatt of children’s literature. An honest-to-goodness historical mystery complete with an early hypothesis, a likable heroine, multiple dead ends, and at the end? GOLD! Literally. It succeeds at doing many things at once, but never runs too long or bores the reader with its findings. Mayor is a likable and ultimately unintimidating subject for kids to follow. For those children obsessed with myths and legends, this might be the ideal way to transition them gently from the world of the fantastical into one of research and exploration. For Percy Jackson lovers everywhere.
On shelves April 8th.
Source: Final copy sent from publicist for review.
Like This? Then Try:
- Dragons and Monsters by Matthew Reinhart and Robert Sabuda
- Secrets from the Rocks: Dinosaur Hunting with Roy Chapman Andrews by Albert Marrin
- Myths and Monsters: Secrets Revealed by Katie Edwards
Professional Reviews: Kirkus
- The American Museum of Natural History offers their own summary of the griffin/dinosaur connection.
- And here’s a New York Times article from 2000 discussing the matter as well.
- But good news on that front! Melissa was interviewed by both a New Zealand reporter and NPR regarding the situation, and we're hopeful this attention has created some new movement on the case. At the very least, she has appreciated all the support.
- Nice awards news: The Nazi Hunters by Neal Bascomb DID win the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award back in January, as well as the Sydney Taylor Book Award for Teens! Yay Neal!
- And just yesterday, Bill Konigsberg's Openly Straight won the SCBWI's Sid Fleischman Award for Humor! As a friend of mine observed, it's terrific to see this book getting recognized for something awesome about it (its sense of humor) that is not the obvious thing that's awesome about it (its thought-provoking take on being a gay teenager in the present time). Or, in the book's own terms, it's great that it's being seen for something beyond its label. Yay Bill!
- (If there are any other kids/YA book awards named for Sidneys, please let me know, as my books seem to be having luck with them at present.)
- The lovely Jill Santopolo -- Philomel executive editor and author of the wonderful new Sparkle Spa chapter-book series -- came on the Narrative Breakdown to talk middle-grade fiction with me recently.
- I will be speaking at the SCBWI Southern Breeze Springmingle conference in Atlanta at the end of the month, giving my Plot Master Class, a talk on character, and a new talk. You can still register for all of it!
Good old Symphony Space has two HUGE authors in the realm of children’s books coming to speak. And though you won’t see it in the press release below, I’m slated to interview the Newbery Honor winner amongst them. Woo-hoo! So take note:
Thalia Kids’ Book Club events with top authors
Tickets: $15/$12 members
Saturday, March 15, 4 pm: Kevin Henkes
Spend the afternoon with the beloved author of Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, winner of the Caldecott Award, and The Year of Billy Miller, a 2014 Newbery Honor Book, as he discusses his creative process. His latest unforgettable character, second-grader Billy Miller, is the star of this new novel–a fast-paced and funny story about friendship, sibling rivalry, and elementary school. The Year of Billy Miller includes black-and-white art by Henkes and is perfect for fans of the Ramona books, Frindle by Andrew Clements, and the Clementine series. Ages 7 – 10.
Tuesday, March 18, 4 pm: Jeff Kinney
The #1 best-selling author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books shares with fans the good fortune that helped him get published and offers a look into some of his favorite moments, plus a peek into how he gets his ideas and puts new books together.
In the eighth Wimpy Kid book, Greg Heffley’s on a losing streak. His best friend, Rowley Jefferson, has ditched him, and finding new friends in middle school is proving to be a tough task. To change his fortunes, Greg decides to take a leap of faith and turn his decisions over to chance. Will a roll of the dice turn things around, or is Greg’s life destined to be just another hard-luck story? Find out at this super fun event with author Jeff Kinney! Ages 7 and up.
Note: This event is limited to 300 attendees.
- Avast! Tis me sister, me hearties! Finding yet ANOTHER fun and crafty way to work children’s literature into your lives. Children of the 80s and 90s (and perhaps the 70s for that matter) may remember the old board game Guess Who with fondness. So what about finding an old run-down copy at a garage sale and turning it into your own personalized version? Kate shows you how. She also works in Giant Dance Party while she’s at it. Kudos, sis.
- An ALSC Graphic Novel Award? No, I’m not saying they’re making one. I’m not even saying they’re discussing it (or a poetry award for that matter). But Travis Jonker considers the notion yet again and we’re mighty glad he did.
- Even more amusing than the French booksellers getting naked to protest the conservative politician that attempted to censor a children’s book about nudity (I think I noticed And Tango Makes Three as one of the strategically placed titles) was the comment by someone one Facebook (forgive me, I can’t remember where I saw this) pointing out that here in the U.S. some folks when coo-coo when SLJ ran a cover of grown adults (including myself) holding colorful alcoholic beverages. Imagine what they’d do if we’d posed in the buff!
This is what we call in the business burying the lede. So I’ve worked at NYPL for almost 10 years now and thanks to its history there’s just a swath of cool stuff hidden around every corner. Case in point, the librarian reviews. For quite some time, the children’s and YA librarians of the system would painstakingly and systematically type up in-house reviews of children’s books so that the materials specialists could consider whether or not to purchase for the system. Recently these card catalogs full of reviews were moved out of their home in the Mid-Manhattan branch to our archives division. I figured that would be the last I ever heard of them. That is, until Kiera Parrott informed me that the NYPL review cards are posted to Instagram every Tuesday and then collected on this Pinterest board. Scroll through and you’ll read fascinating conflicting opinions on books like Judy Blume’s Forever or the very funny review by a librarian going against an ancient Anne Carroll Moore lack-of-recommendation. One of these days I SWEAR I am getting a “Not Recommended by Expert” t-shirt or necklace or something. Big time thanks to Kiera for this find.
Awards You Should Be Award of, Consarn It: Did you remember that the NAACP Image Awards give out children’s literature honors? And in the field of Outstanding Literary Work – Children I am happy to report that the award went to Kadir Nelson’s Nelson Mandela with honors for Knock Knock (woo-hoo!), Martin & Mahalia, You Never Heard of Willie Mays, and (here’s a surprise) I’m a Pretty Little Black Girl, which I completely missed. Courage Has No Color won in the teen category, which was a huge relief since I was worried that book wouldn’t get any of the awards it deserved this year.
- In other award news the Ezra Jack Keats Awards were recently announced. Excellent choices all around. And if you missed the Cybils announcement of their winners, head on over there as well. Very good stuff.
- Did you properly celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday yesterday? If not, have some fun and head on over to Nine Kinds of Pie, where Phil Nel discusses seven Dr. Seuss quotes that never really existed.
- CCBC-NET is the listserv where normally I can sit back, relax, and just take in the occasional comment for processing later in the day. Recently, however, it exploded as discussions of race and multicultural literature stayed hot but, for the most part, cordial. The post Taking Action to Make Children’s Literature Better for People of Color does a quick summary then offers solutions to the issues brought up in the past month. Very good and interesting reading for the day!
- Folks coming to NYC will ask me what there is to do in town that’s children’s literature related and recently all I’ve mentioned was the current NYPL exhibit The ABC of It and the Morgan Library’s Little Prince exhibit. This is because I routinely forget that The Grolier Club ALSO partakes of children’s literary events from time to time. So in case you missed it, you may wish to hop on over to “Pop-Ups From Prague: A Centennial Celebration of the Graphic Artistry of Vojtech Kubašta (1914-1992)“. Boing Boing highlighted some of the art and it really is gorgeous stuff. It runs until the 15th of this month so move fast!
- Meanwhile, in Wausau, Wisconsin there’s an exhibit up at the Woodson Art Museum called From Houdini to Hugo: The Art of Brian Selznick. Coo!
- After you’re done there you can swing by Hamilton, Ohio where the Heritage Hall Museum has its very own McCloskey Museum. That’s Robert McCloskey, folks. Word on the street has it that they have the original doughnut machine from Home Price there and that it works! Check out all the great March events they have going on.
- And just when you decided you couldn’t love the Darwin family any more (after reading Charles & Emma I, for one, wanted to adopt them as my own) you find out that his kids scribbled all over the manuscript of Origin of the Species as well as in Emma’s diary. Thanks to Phil Nel for the link.
- I was delighted to sit down with author/illustrator Hilary Leung last week as he came to town for the mid-winter SCBWI conference. Hilary showed me some of his works and stuff and then gave me this little delightful book of LEGO versions of classic and contemporary children’s books. It was so impressive that I just had to share it here. Check out the man’s Pinterest page of images. FANTASTIC!
- Sometimes BookRiot really gets a post right. Did you see their piece on bookmobile fashions? It sounds funny when I say it, but there’s really no better way. Thanks to AL Direct for the link.
- They’re putting exercise bikes out for teen patrons in libraries now? Patrons, heck! Can I have one in front of my own desk? In lieu of a walking desk I’ll take what I can get.
- Daily Image:
I’m not the first person to show it, but I didn’t want to be the last either. I think it was agent Steven Malk who posted it on Twitter. It’s Dr. Seuss, Judy Blume and Maurice Sendak.
Thanks to Warren Truitt for the heads up.
Magical realism in children’s novels is a rarity. It’s not unheard of, but when children’s authors want fantasy, they write fantasy. When they want reality, they write reality. A potentially uncomfortable mix of the two is harder to pull off. Ambiguity is not unheard of in books for youth, but it’s darned hard to write. Why go through all that trouble? For that reason alone we don’t tend to see it in children’s books. Kids like concrete concepts. Good guys vs. bad guys. This is real vs. this is a dream. But a clever author, one who respects the intelligence of their young audience, can upset expectations without sacrificing their story. When author Nikki Loftin decided to adapt Hans Christian Andersen’s tale The Nightingale into a middle grade contemporary novel, she made a conscious decision to make the book a work of magical realism. A calculated risk, Loftin’s gambit pays off. Nightingale’s Nest is a painful but ultimately emotionally resonant tale of sacrifice and song. A remarkably competent book, stronger for its one-of-a-kind choices.
It doesn’t seem right that a twelve-year-old boy would carry around a guilt as deep and profound as Little John’s. But when you feel personally responsible for the death of your little sister, it’s hard to let go of those feelings. It doesn’t help matters any that John has to spend the summer helping his dad clear brush for the richest man in town, a guy so extravagant, the local residents just call him The Emperor. It’s on one of these jobs that John comes to meet and get to know The Emperor’s next door neighbor, Gayle. About the age of his own sister when she died, Gayle’s a foster kid who prefers sitting in trees in her own self-made nest to any other activity. But as the two become close friends, John notices odd things about the girl. When she sings it’s like nothing you’ve ever heard before, and she even appears to possibly have the ability to heal people with her voice. It doesn’t take long before The Emperor becomes aware of the treasure in his midst. He wants Gayle’s one of a kind voice, and he’ll do anything to have it. The question is, what does John think is more important: His family’s livelihood or the full-throated song of one little girl?
How long did it take me to realize I was reading a middle grade adaptation of a Hans Christian Andersen short story? Let me first tell you that when I read a book I try not to read even so much as a plot description beforehand so that the novel will stay fresh and clear in my mind. With that understanding, it’s probably not the worst thing in the world that it took a 35-year-old woman thirty-nine pages before she caught on to what she was reading. Still, I have the nasty suspicion that many a savvy kid would have picked up on the theme before I did. As it stands, we’ve seen Andersen adapted into middle grade novels for kids before. Breadcrumbs, for example, is a take on his story The Snow Queen as well as some of his other, stranger tales. They say that he wrote The Nightingale for the singer Jenny Lind, with whom he was in love. All I know is that in the original tale the story concentrates on the wonders of the natural world vs. the mechanical one. In this book, Loftin goes in a slightly different direction. It isn’t an over-reliance on technology that’s the problem here. It’s an inability to view our fellow human beings as just that. Human beings. Come to think of it, maybe that’s what Andersen was going for in the first place.
It was the writing, of course, that struck my attention first. Loftin gives the book beautiful sequences filled with equally beautiful sentences. There’s a section near the end that tells a tale of a tree that fails to keep hold of a downy chick, but is redeemed by saving another bird in a storm. This section says succinctly everything you need to know about this book. I can already see the children’s book and discussion groups around the country that will get a kick out of picking apart this parable. It’s not a hard one to interpret, but you wouldn’t want it to be.
As for the characters, there wasn’t a person here that I couldn’t recognize as real. I was quite taken with the fact that Loftin continually sidesteps a lot of the usual middle grade tropes. Gayle’s nasty foster brother Jeb, for example, could easily have been labeled the typical bully type character for this book. Bullies in children’s books, after all, have a tendency to be one-note characters. Jeb, in contrast, is capable of talking like a normal human being from time to time. He’s a horrible human being at other times, but at least you get the sense that he’s not just a walking two-dimensional caricature. It makes a difference.
The ending is going to be problematic for some folks. It is not, I should say, unsatisfying. I think even people who don’t have a problem with what it says will only have a problem with HOW it goes about saying it. But the end of the book goes so far as to make it clear that this story really doesn’t take place in the real world in which we live. The characters face real world problems, but that doesn’t preclude the presence of something magical. “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio . . .” and all that jazz. For some readers, this may feel like a kind of betrayal. As if the author didn’t have the guts to stay in the real world from start to finish, but instead had to rely on something otherworldly for her climax. I don’t see it that way. Loftin’s choices seem very deliberate here, from page one onward. Just because something is magical, that doesn’t mean you can’t interpret the book in other ways. Don’t like the supernatural element at the end? Then why are you assuming it’s real? After all, we’re getting this whole story through Little John’s perspective. Who’s to say he’s the world’s most reliable narrator? Just because a book is written for children, that doesn’t mean you have to take it at face value.
In any case, I don’t believe the magic detracts in the least from what Loftin is saying here about the banality of poverty. This isn’t a book that romanticizes what it’s like to be poor. It’s just Little John’s everyday existence, to a certain extent. And with the introduction of The Emperor, readers get to see firsthand how money, or the lack thereof, has a lot to do with self-worth and what you have to do with your pride and sense of self-worth when you’re indebted to another person. Little John witnesses firsthand his own father’s humiliation at the hands of the Emperor, and then finds himself in possession (in a sense) of something The Emperor wants. But rather than give him power, this just focuses the rich man’s attention on the boy, making him easy prey. Better that you never have something the wealthy think that they need. And as Little John says at one point, “What was right didn’t have a thing to do with what was.”
Reading the book, I found it enormously painful. But I at least had the wherewithal to realize that it was uniquely painful to me as a mother. Any parent reading this is going to instantly fret and worry and think about Gayle’s position in her foster home. But for kids reading this book they’re going to identify with Little John and Gayle as children, not as parents. This is a book about terrible decisions made, for the most part, by good people. This can, at times, make the story emotionally hard to follow, but I like to think Ms. Loftin had things well in hand when she came up with her tale. There’s a great comfort in knowing that even when you screw up royally, you can still find forgiveness. If kids take nothing else away from this book, I hope that they understand that much. Smart and beautiful by turns, The Nightingale’s Nest does one thing that few will contest. Once you’ve read it, you’ll have a hard time getting it out of your head.
On shelves now.
Notes on the Cover: It was indeed the cover that I noticed first about this book. Unfortunately the name of the artist has been difficult to find, but it’s lovely isn’t it? The girl, clearly Gayle, could be floating or flying or just lying on the ground, depending on how you look at it. Of course, most notable is the fact that she appears to be African-American. There’s been a lot of talk over the last few years about showing black faces on our book jackets, so I applaud Razorbill for having the guts to do a cover that isn’t a silhouette. That said, I did notice that at no point in the novel does the book specifically say that Gayle is dark-skinned. In fact, it doesn’t really describe her skin at all. We get a sense of how soft her hair is and how beautiful her voice, but nothing much more beyond that. Could this be one of the very few cases in which a kid’s race isn’t mentioned in a book and yet that kid isn’t just assumed to be white? If so it’s a big step forward in the world of book jackets. Someone should conduct an interview with Razorbill’s art director about the decision to go with this cover. I’d love to know if this is indicative of books in the future. If so, it’s a trend I’ll be watching with great interest.
Source: Galley sent from the publisher for review.
Like This? Then Try:
- Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
- The Season of Secrets by Sally Nicholls
- Skellig by David Almond
Other Blog Reviews:
- Seattle Mystery Bookshop speaks with Nikki about her work.
- Charlotte’s Library does the same.
- One at The Book Cellar.
- And there’s yet another with BookPeople Teen Press Corps.
- One more – Imaginary Reads.
Misc: Finally, you can read an excerpt over at I Read Banned Books.
BESTSELLING FANCY NANCY ILLUSTRATOR ROBIN PREISS GLASSER’S OFFICIAL 2014 CHILDREN’S BOOK WEEK POSTER UNVEILED AT BOOKWEEKONLINE.COM
PREISS GLASSER’S OFFICIAL POSTER COMMEMORATES THE 95TH ANNUAL CELEBRATION OF CHILDREN’S BOOK WEEK (MAY 12-18, 2014), THE LONGEST-RUNNING NATIONAL LITERACY INITIATIVE IN THE COUNTRY
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New York, NY — February 27, 2014 – The Children’s Book Council and Every Child a Reader have unveiled Robin Preiss Glasser’s official 2014 Children’s Book Week poster at bookweekonline.com, commemorating the 95th annual celebration of books for young people and the joy of reading. 175,000 copies will be distributed nationwide, and may be requested online at no cost beyond shipping. 2014 will be the largest celebration of Children’s Book Week yet, with official events –which give kids the opportunity to connect with their favorite authors and illustrators in person – in all 50 states for the first time in the initiative’s history.
Robin Preiss Glasser is the 2013 Children’s Choice Illustrator of the Year Award-winner for Fancy Nancy and the Mermaid Ballet, part of the Fancy Nancy series which has more than 50 titles and has been on the New York Times Bestsellers list for more than 350 weeks. Her poster shows a group of children of all ages reading together on a chair quilted with the covers of classic children’s books including Eloise, Goodnight Moon, The Twits, The Purple Crayon, Call of the Wild, Charlotte’s Web, and other favorites.
“To be a part of Children’s Book Week, with its recognition of the joy of storytelling and importance of reading, is truly an honor,” says Robin Preiss Glasser. “In creating the poster for this year’s celebration, I follow in the footsteps of so many great children’s book illustrators, many of whose work enchanted me as a child. It is thrilling to have the opportunity to share my art with the libraries, schools, and book stores that are part of the Children’s Book Council’s and Every Child a Reader’s outreach, as together we share our love of storybooks with young audiences.”
Each year since Children’s Book Week’s inception in 1919, a distinguished children’s book illustrator has been called upon to create an official Children’s Book Week poster to be distributed nationwide. Over the literacy initiative’s 95 storied years, posters have been created by children’s literature icons including Brian Selznick, Ian Falconer, Jon J Muth, Maurice Sendak, Ezra Jack Keats, Richard Scarry, Ellen Raskin, Laurent deBrunhoff, Tomie dePaola, Rosemary Wells, Garth Williams, Marc Brown, and Jerry Pinkney. The Children’s Book Council and Every Child a Reader are honored to add Robin Preiss Glasser’s beautiful work to these historic commemorations of Children’s Book Week.
54 W. 39th St., Floor 14, New York, NY, 10018, 212.966.1990
About Robin Preiss Glasser
Robin Preiss Glasser is the #1 New York Times bestselling illustrator of the Fancy Nancy series, written by Jane O’Connor; America: A Patriotic Primer, A is for Abigail, and Our Fifty States by Lynne Cheney, and Tea for Ruby by Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York. She lives in Southern California with her family, puppy, and tiara collection. Learn more at robinpreissglasser.com.
About the Fancy Nancy Series
With more than 24 million books sold since the series launched in December 2005 and more than 350 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, the Fancy Nancy franchise shows no sign of slowing down. Jane O’Connor and Robin Preiss Glasser have appeared on The Today Show, The Martha Stewart Show and on TLC’s Mall Cops and have been featured in over 100 daily newspapers. The Fancy Nancy series has been translated into 18 languages and has over 30 licensees to date. In 2008, Fancy Nancy was named the Book Character of the Year by Global License. Fancy Nancy also received two nominations for the Toy Industry Association’s Toy of the Year Awards, two nominations for the 2009 LIMA International Licensing Excellence Awards and was named the Best Character Brand Program of the Year.
About Children’s Book Week (CBW)
Established in 1919, CBW is the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country. Each year, official and local commemorative events are held nationwide at schools, libraries, bookstores, homes — wherever young readers and books connect. In 2014, official events will be held in all 50 states for the first time in the initiative’s history. Learn more at bookweekonline.com.
About Every Child a Reader (ECAR)
Every Child a Reader is a 501(c)(3) literacy organization dedicated to instilling a lifelong love of reading in children. Every Child a Reader creates and supports programs that: strive to make the reading and enjoyment of children’s books an essential part of America’s educational and social aims; enhance public perception of the importance of reading. ECAR’s national programs include Children’s Book Week, a nationwide celebration of books and reading, and the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country; the Children’s Choice Book Awards, the only national book awards program where the winning titles are selected by kids and teens of all ages; and the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Program, the country’s “Children’s Literature Laureate”. Please visit ecarfoundation.org for more information.
About the Children’s Book Council (CBC)
The Children’s Book Council is the national nonprofit trade association for children’s book publishers, and the anchor sponsor of Children’s Book Week. The CBC offers children’s publishers the opportunity to work together on issues of importance to the industry at large, including educational programming, literacy advocacy, and collaborations with other national organizations. Membership in the CBC is open to U.S. publishers of children’s trade books, as well as in some cases to industry-affiliated companies. The CBC is proud to partner with other national organizations on co-sponsored reading lists, educational programming, and literacy initiatives. Please visit cbcbooks.org for more information.
Senior Communications Manager
The Children’s Book Council and Every Child a Reader
Everyone loves a good list but finding lists that reflect the intelligence of experts in a given field can sometimes be tricky. Consider, if you will, books about American Indians for the kiddos. I can’t tell you how many summer reading lists I see every year that have The Indian in the Cupboard, The Matchlock Gun, or even Rifles for Watie on them. Just once it would be nice to see a Top 100 list of books that could serve as guidelines for folks searching for good books about indigenous peoples.
You can imagine my interest, then, when Debbie Reese mentioned on the ccbc-net listserv that she had contributed to a list called “Top One Hundred Books by Indigenous Writers.” She also said that if anyone was interested in seeing this list, they could contact her and she’d pass it on. But with a list this good, it begs to be shared. I asked Debbie and her fellow experts in the field if it would be all right to post the list on this site and they agreed.
Here’s is some background, from Debbie, about the books:
As we worked on the list, we limited ourselves on # of books per author so that we could be as inclusive as possible. The list is a combination of our personal favorites and recommendations from peers.
We did not delineate or mark those that are in the children/YA category. We feel strongly that those who wish to write for adults or children/YA would benefit from reading what we’re calling masters. And, we think that those who wish to strengthen their ability to select/review books about American Indians would benefit from reading the books, too. So many authors who give talks and workshops tell people that in order to write, they have to read.
I have linked some of the children’s and YA titles to reviews and records. If I have missed any, please let me know.
Thank you Debbie, Susan, Teresa, and Tim for passing this along. I am very pleased and moved to host it here.
A Work in Progress: Top One Hundred Books by Indigenous Writers
Compiled for ATALM  2012, by
Susan Hanks, Debbie Reese, Teresa Runnels, and Tim Tingle 
Updated on February 24, 2014
After a year of informal surveys and queries, we offer a list of over 100 books that every museum and library should have on their shelves. Written by tribal members, these books are the foundation of our literature as Indigenous people. Just as Western culture promotes Shakespeare as a prerequisite to grasping the essence of Western word arts, we promote N. Scott Momaday, D’Arcy McNickle, and many, many others to insure that our future writers reference, in images and ideas, our Indigenous masters.
Among our list are books written for children and young adults. Though often seen as “less than” because of their intended reader, we believe books for children are as important—if not more important—than books for adults. The future of our Nations will be in the hands of our children. Books that reflect them and their nations are crucial to the well being of all our Nations.
Sherman Alexie (Spokane/Coeur d’Alene)
- The Business of Fancydancing
- The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
- Reservation Blues
Rilla Askew (Choctaw)
- Mercy Seat
Beverly Blacksheep (Navajo)
Kimberly Blaeser (White Earth Ojibwe)
- Absentee Indians and Other Poems
Joseph Boyden (Metis/Micmac)
- Three Day Road
Jim Bruchac and Joe Bruchac (Abenaki)
Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki)
Ignatia Broker (Ojibwe)
- Night Flying Woman
Emily Ivanoff Brown (Native Village of Unalakleet)
- The Longest Story Ever Told: Qayak, The Magical Man
Nicola Campbell (Interior Salish)
Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes
Robert Conley (Cherokee)
- Medicine War
- The Witch of Going Snake
Ella Deloria (Yankton Sioux)
Vine Deloria, Jr. (Standing Rock Lakota)
- Custer Died For Your Sins
- Red Earth, White Lies
Jennifer Denetdale (Dine)
- The Long Walk: The Forced Navajo Exile
- Reclaiming Dine History
Echo-Hawk, Roger C. and Walter C. Echo-Hawk (Pawnee)
- Battlefields and Burial Grounds: The Indian Struggle to Protect Ancestral Graves in the United States
Walter C. Echo-Hawk (Pawnee)
- In the Courts of the Conqueror: the 10 Worst Law Cases Ever Decided
Heid Erdrich (Turtle Mountain Ojibwe)
- Cell Traffic: New and Selected Poems
Louise Erdrich (Turtle Mountain Ojibwe)
- The Beet Queen
- The Last Report on the Miracles at No Horse
Jack D. Forbes (Powhatan Delaware)
- Only Approved Indians: Stories
- Red Blood
- Africans and Native Americans: The Language of Race and the Evolution of Red-Black Peoples
Eric Gansworth (Onondaga)
- A Half-Life of Cardio-Pulmonary Function
- Extra Indians
- Mending Skins
Diane Glancy (Cherokee)
- Pushing the Bear
Joy Harjo (Muscogee Creek)
- For a Girl Becoming
- In Mad Love and War
- Reinventing the Enemies Language
Tomson Highway (Cree)
- Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing
- Kiss of the Fur Queen
Geary Hobson (Cherokee, Quapaw)
- The Last of the Ofos
- The Remembered Earth
Linda Hogan (Chickasaw)
- Mean Spirit
- Red Clay: Poems & Stories
- Solar Storms
- The Woman Who Watches Over the World: A Native Memoir
LeAnne Howe (Choctaw)
- Miko Kings: An Indian Baseball Story
- Shell Shaker
Hershman John (Navajo)
- I Swallow Turquoise for Courage
Thomas King (Cherokee)
- Medicine River
- One Good Story, That One
Michael Lacapa (Apache/Hopi)
- Antelope Woman
- Less than Half, More Than Whole
Winona LaDuke (Ojibwe/Chippewa/Anishinabe)
- All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life
Adrian Louis (Paiute)
- Among the Dog Eaters
- Shedding Skins
- Wild Indians and Other Creatures
Larry Loyie (Cree)
- As Long as the Rivers Flow: A Last Summer Before Residential School
Wilma Mankiller (Cherokee) and Michael Wallace
- A Chief and Her People
Joseph Marshall III (Lakota Sioux)
- The Journey of Crazy Horse
- The Lakota Way
John Joseph Matthews (Osage)
Janet McAdams (Creek)
- After Removal (with Geary Hobson and Kathryn Walkiewicz)
- The Island of Lost Luggage
- The People Who Stayed: Southeastern Indian Writing
- Red Weather
Joseph Medicine Crow (Crow)
- Counting Coup
Carla Messinger (Lenape)
- When the Shadbush Blooms
N. Scott Momaday (Kiowa)
- House Made of Dawn
- The Way to Rainey Mountain
D’Arcy McNickle (Cree)
- The Hawk is Hungry
- Runner in the Sun
- The Surrounded
- Wind from an Enemy Sky
Nora Naranjo-Morse (Santa Clara Pueblo)
- Mud Woman: Poems from the Clay
Jim Northrup (Ojibwe)
- Walking the Rez Road
Simon Ortiz (Acoma)
- The Good Rainbow Road/Rawa ‘Kashtyaa’tsi Hiyaani
- Men on the Moon: Collected Short Stories
- The People Shall Continue
- From Sand Creek
Louis Owens (Choctaw)
- The Bone Game
- Mixedblood Messages: Literature, Film, Family, Place
- The Sharpest Sight
- Other Destinies: Understanding the American Indian Novel
Leonard Peltier (Anishinabe/Lakota)
- Prison Writings
- My Life is My Sun Dance
William Penn (Nez Perce/Osage)
- All My Sins Are Relatives
Susan Power (Sioux)
- The Grass Dancer
Marcie Rendon (Anishinabe)
- Pow Wow Summer
Leslie Marmon Silko (Laguna Pueblo)
- Almanac of the Dead
- Laguna Women: Poems
Cheryl Savageau (Abenaki)
- Muskrat Will Be Swimming
Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee Creek)
Paul Chaat Smith (Comanche)
- Everything You Know About Indians is Wrong
Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve (Lakota Sioux)
Allen J. Sockabasin (Passamaquoddy)
- Thanks to the Animals
Shirley Sterling (Salish)
- My Name is Seepeetza
Chief Jake Swamp (Mohawk)
Luci Tapahonso (Dine)
- A Breeze Swept Through: Poetry
- Blue Horses Rush In: Poems and Stories
- Songs of Shiprock Fair
Drew Hayden Taylor (Curve Lake Ojibwe)
- The Night Wanderer
Tim Tingle (Choctaw)
- House of Purple Cedar
Laura Tohe (Navajo)
- No Parole Today
Richard Van Camp (Dogrib)
- The Lesser Blessed
- The Moon of Letting Go: and Other Stories
- Path of the Warrior
Jan Bourdeau Waboose (Ojibway)
- Morning on the Lake
Velma Wallis (Athabascan)
- Two Old Women: An Alaska Legend of Betrayal, Courage and Survival
Anna Lee Walters (Pawnee/Otoe)
- Ghost Singer
James Welch (Blackfoot/Gros Ventre)
- Fool’s Crow
- Heartsong of Charging Elk
- Indian Lawyer
- Winter in the Blood
Bernelda Wheeler (Cree/Assiniboine/Saulteaux)
- I Can’t Have Bannock but the Beaver Has a Dam
- Where Did You Get Your Moccasins?
Robert A. Williams (Lumbee)
- Like a Loaded Weapon: The Rehnquist Court, Indian Rights, and the History of Racism in America
Daniel H. Wilson (Cherokee)
Craig Womack (Creek)
- Drowning in Fire
- Red On Red: Native American Literary Separatism
For further information and titles, contact Susan Hanks at Susan.Hanks@library.ca.gov, Debbie Reese at firstname.lastname@example.org, Teresa Runnels at email@example.com, or Tim Tingle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 The 2012 conference of the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums took place in Tulsa, Oklahoma. ATALM Website: http://www.atalm.org/
 This list was compiled for presentation at the ATALM conference. We encourage all librarians to purchase a copy of every book by the writers on our list, and we encourage you to ask when out-of-print books will be back in print. In preparing our list, we limited ourselves to no more than four titles per author. The titles are our personal favorites. Our contact info is below.
For a blog that only does videos on Sundays regularly, I’m often surprised when folks offer to premiere their book trailers here. I am, however, always flattered, particularly when the trailers are as good as the one you’re seeing here today. The Meaning of Maggie by Megan Jean Sovern falls into the category of books-that-are-turning-my-youth-into-his
Cute, right? Now let’s say you wanted to own such a book. Heck, let’s say you wanted to own a signed galley of the book! Well, I’ve never been much of a giveaway gal. Fortunately the Chronicle folks aren’t as lazy. Go here if you’d like to enter to win one of three signed ARCs of this book.
And just for the heck of it, let’s see if my blog is capable of hosting an excerpt of the book. Just in case you’re curious, you understand. Consider it your consolation prize, should you fail to win an ARC:
Thanks to Lara Starr and the lovely folks at Chronicle for thinking of me for this.