Thursday, March 25, 2010
Thursday, March 18, 2010
The following list is a brief overview of some books that are currently in-print that I think would suit the tastes of boys who are in 3rd or 4th grade, or who are reading at a 3rd or 4th grade level. Having never been a 3rd or 4th grade boy, my opinion comes from having a father, an older brother, and many boy customers, all of whom I observe and talk with about books. The general trend runs toward sports, "funny" books, and action/adventure. I'm also throwing some part-graphic novel titles on here, just for fun.
The original series I recommended at the teacher's request was the Dan Gutman series, Baseball Card Adventures (HarperCollins). These stories featured a boy who upon touching a baseball card, would be transported back in time to meet, say, Mickey Mantle or Shoeless Joe.
Continuing on the sports theme, I would also recommend a series by Loren Long and Phil Bildner, originally known as Barnstormers when it was a hardcover-only series, now known as Sluggers in hardcover/paperback (Simon & Schuster). This has a similar feel to the Dan Gutman series, in that it combines baseball and magic, but aren't high-fantasy (no goblins, trolls, etc.). There are six in the series so far. My favorite aspect of this series is that a lot of baseball terminology and slang are used right in the prose, and then defined in the margins of the page. You get to read a great baseball adventure story and learn baseball vocab - what could be better than that?
One last sports series, that's not baseball specific is the Comeback Kids series by Mike Lupica (Penguin). Each book features a boy playing a different sport; so, for instance, one plays basketball, one football, one baseball, etc.
On to non-sports recommendations:
Doctor Proctor's Fart Powder by Jo Nesbo, illustrated by Mike Lowery (9781416979722, $14.99, Simon & Schuster). The word "fart" is in the title. Need I say more?
The Indian in the Cupboard (series) by Lynne Reid Banks (Random House). An oldie but a goodie, though being sensitive to the portrayal of Native Americans in literature, I have to say this series is typically lacking in its cultural sensitivity and accurate tribal-specific information. That said, I read this series as a kid and it's what, in part, influenced me in becoming a Native American studies major in college. So, you never know.
Never underestimate the power of the Choose Your Own Adventure novel, mostly written by R.A. Montgomery, though other writers fill in the series (Chooseco). These don't need to be read in order. They have started publishing some CYOAs at the beginning chapter book level for 1st and 2nd graders, too.
The Jon Scieszka recommendation section of this post:
Knucklehead by Jon Scieszka (9780670011384, $12.99, Penguin). The subtitle is Tall Tales and Mostly True Stories of Growing Up Scieszka. These tales feature the outlandish (mostly true) events that occur when you grow up as one of six brothers. Pictures of Jon Scieszka and his family are sprinkled throughout the book. Some parents have been sensitive to the cover - it was designed specifically that way to reflect the covers of comic books that Scieszka read as a child that age, not as a political statement of today.
Noisy Outlaws, Unfriendly Blobs, and Some Other Things...
(...that aren't as scary, maybe, depending on how you feel about lost lands, stray cellphones, creatures form the sky, parents who disappear in Peru, a man named Lars Farf, and one other story we couldn't quite finish, so maybe you could help us out)
by Nick Hornby, Neil Gaiman, Jon Scieszka, Jonathan Safran Foer, etc. (9780385737470, $12.99, Random House). Besides winning best title of the decade, this book is a great introduction to some fantastic authors. Basically these are all short stories, a few pages long, mostly sci-fi or fantasy-related. A good introduction to this genre and these writers for kids at the Middle Grade reading level.
A similar book for those reading at the higher end of Middle Grade, say 10-14 years old, try Guys Write for Guys Read, edited by Jon Scieszka (9780670011445, $11.99, Penguin). This is the same type of book where all the stories are a few pages long, only not only sci-fi/fantasy-based tales. In this compilation, all the contributing writers are guys, writing for a guy audience.
Part graphic novel, part regular novel recommendations:
Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom & Frankie Pickle and the Pine Run 3000 (series starring Frankie Pickle) by Eric Wight (Simon & Schuster). This series is a little easier reading level for those reluctant readers, more of a 2nd to 3rd grade level. The "every day" scenes are in prose; it's when Frankie's imagination takes over that the graphic novel element comes to life.
Dragonbreath (series) by Ursula Vernon (Penguin). A relatively new series starring a little dragon as the main character, but in the role of a boy; also featuring a foreign exchange student (a salamander) and ninja frogs.
The Fog Mound (trilogy) by Susan Schade and Jon Buller (Simon & Schuster). Recommended by my Simon & Schuster book rep, this series is about a chipmunk named Thelonious who is given the chance to find out if the old stories are true - if people rather than animals once ruled the Earth, and if they did, what happened to the humans?
Now that you've heard my two cents, does the peanut gallery have any favorites they'd like to add?
Thursday, March 11, 2010
I have a writer friend who is looking for YA (or adult) novels that are told in alternating voices. She wants examples where each character has a chapter and they go back and forth between points of view. It’s a bonus if the characters live in different time periods.
The varied responses from the people who answered her, and the fact that I'm working on a YA novel told from various view points, made me reflect on that topic.
A co-worker once lamented about dual-narrator novels, saying something to the effect of, "Unless it's written really really well, it's a cop-out" (I'm paraphrasing greatly here). After I heard her reasoning, I admit I judged dual-narrator novels more harshly, despite writing one of my own.
The way I defend my own writing is that I didn't want to tell the entire novel from a third-person omniscient narrator POV, and both main characters are, ya know, main characters with two distinct voices, so...mine works (I hope).
But what really makes a novel work with multiple voices and in which cases is it unnecessary to the plot? A lot of novels have more than one main character, or really important secondary characters; why should they not all have their own voice? Often scenes are told from the POV of a character other than the main character, but almost never in first person. It is the omniscient narrator that allows the reader to gaze through the eyes of a secondary character, and it abundantly clear that the POV of the primary protagonist is the central focus.
Of course, I'm also confusing this subject by talking about POV (point-of-view), voices, and narrators, and all that doesn't include various storytelling formats such as diary entries, letters, phone conversation transcripts, and the recently more common emails and text messages. Where do all of these fit into the subject of multiple narrators?
While I don't have concrete answers to the questions I've posed, here are some books to hold up as examples for things I think they do particularly well.
My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger (9780142413432, $8.99, Penguin) is my go-to favorite for multiple narrator/multiple format storytelling. This is a YA novel about three contemporary teenagers. The novel exhibits three different main character points-of-view, with plenty of secondary characters, texts, emails, IMs, diary entries, and expository scenes.
Another favorite contemporary YA novel that switches not only narrators, but also time periods, is Printz Award-winning Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (9780061431852, $8.99, Harper). Warning: It makes me sob (good tears) every time I read it; it's that good.
A new, not-yet-released YA novel told by dual narrators is Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan (9780525421580, $17.99, Penguin, Pub. Date: April 2010). Interestingly, the two different view points are written by two different authors.
My favorite adult novel, though sadly out-of-print, is Letters from an Age of Reason by Nora Hague (9780060959852, Harper). Told in alternating sections, letters and journal entries chronicle the relationship between a white American living in England during the Civil War years, and the high-yellow former slave from New Orleans she falls in love with.
Also told in letters, is a non-fiction book, 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (9780140143508, $13, Penguin), which covers the decades of correspondence between Helene, the American author, and the people from the bookstore at 84 Charing Cross Road. Also adult.
Similar to 84... is the best-seller The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (9780385341004, $14, Random House). Also about an American author corresponding with British people, this takes place right after WWII, and delicately showcases the friendships and budding romance. Also adult.
Nora Roberts, also writing as J.D. Robb, often writes scenes from a secondary character's point of view, though it is always clear who the main character is. Her more romantic novels are almost always told primarily through the woman's point of view, but a great strength of her novels are the scenes that are seen through the man's eyes. In her J.D. Robb ...In Death mysteries, not only does the reader see Eve Dallas's and her husband Roarke's POV, but scenes from various victims' POV are often presented as well.
For another great mystery, read Darling Jim by Christian Moerk (9780805092080, $15, Henry Hold (MPS)), told from the POVs of a postman, a dead woman and her diary, and a live woman and her diary, among others.
I've noticed YA fantasy novels have a propensity for being told with dual narrators. Here is a quick list of books I've read that showcase dual or multiple narrators that are currently on the store's shelves:
Hearts at Stake (9780802720740, $9.99, Walker & Company (Bloomsbury, MPS)) and Blood Feud (9780802720962, $9.99, Walker & Company (Bloomsbury, MPS)) by Alyxandra Harvey
Incarceron (9780803733961, $17.99, Penguin) by Catherine Fisher
Leviathan (9781416971733, $19.99, Simon) by Scott Westerfeld
Sorcery & Cecelia, or, The Enchanted Chocolate Pot (9780152053000, $6.95, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) by Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer
Witch & Wizard (9780316036245, $17.99, Little, Brown & Co.) by James Patterson & Gabrielle Charbonnet
Do you have any examples of novels of this ilk you'd like to share?
Friday, March 5, 2010
Cutting for Stone (recently released in paperback) is the best book that Emily Crowe has read in the past five years, and I quote:
"This extraordinary first novel had me in thrall from chapter one-- it's a rare author who can plumb the horrors of civil war and the operating theatre one moment, the vagaries of the human heart the next moment, all with equal deftness, but Verghese rises to the challenge with grace. With Surgical precision he limns his characters, treating even their flaws with compassion and a true generosity of spirit, adroitly interweaving medical techniques and philosophy into this sweeping story of family and fatherland, love and loyalty. This is the best book I've read in the last five years". ~Emily Crowe.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Penguin has created a new line of books known as Penguin Ink. Already published adult novels are getting a face lift with new cover designs created by tattoo artists. Paul Buckley is the design director for this new line.
The first six novels are being re-released at the end of June. They are:
Bridget Jones's Diary
by Helen Fielding, cover design by Tara McPherson
Paperback: 9780143117131, $15, Penguin, Pub. Date: June 2010
Money: A Suicide Note
by Marin Amis, cover design by Bert Krak
Paperback: 9780143116950, $15, Penguin, Pub. Date: June 2010
From Russia With Love
by Ian Fleming, cover design by Chris Garver
Paperback: 9780143116943, $15, Penguin, Pub. Date: June 2010
The Broom of the System
by David Foster Wallace, cover design by Duke Riley
Paperback: 9780143116936, $15, Penguin, Pub. Date: June 2010
Waiting for the Barbarians
by J.M. Coetzee, cover design by Chris Conn
Paperback: 9780143116929, $15, Penguin, Pub. Date: June 2010
The Bone People
by Keri Hulme, cover design by Pepa Heller
Paperback: 9780143116455, $15, Penguin, Pub. Date: June 2010
Read more about this here.
And in case you missed it in an earlier post, some adult Penguin Classics have been redone to have intricate typography covers in shades of black, white, and red - the red is to spark AIDS awareness, the cause behind the repackaging. Read more about the Penguin Classics here.
This post can also be read on my personal blog here.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
I'm pretty ashamed of how long it has been since I've posted anything on the Odyssey's blog. My life has been a roller-coaster since the end of July when I found out that...I'm pregnant! Our little girl, Molly Elizabeth, is due April 11th and my husband and I are frantically preparing for her arrival.
So, this post is both an apology for my absence and a short farewell until July when I return to the Odyssey.
My absence from this blog can attributed to the shear lack of reading I've been able to do these last 7 months! My first trimester left me unable to pick up a book without feeling woozy...then exhaustion set in, blah blah blah, a myriad of excuses!
While I'm not back to my "normal" self, it's only been in the last 2-3 months that I've felt awake enough and capable enough to actually read a book and truly enjoy it.
Here's what I've read/been reading:
Allison Hoover Bartlett's THE MAN WHO LOVED BOOKS TOO MUCH
This book is a fantastic story about a west coast book thief who stole books simply because he loved to read. While his actions are deplorable, if you're a book lover, you can't help but find him at least a little sympathetic.
Howard Frank Mosher, WALKING TO GATLINBURG.
I admit that I haven't quite finished this one, yet, but plan to do so ASAP. Mosher's characters are unforgettable and the first line of the novel will appeal to any avid reader!
Justin Cronin, THE PASSAGE
This may well be the biggest novel to come out this summer. Due in late June, Cronin tells the story of the United States (in 2014) being overtaken by vampires. I know, I know...more vampires...ugh, but trust me when I say that you completely buy into Cronin's world. I'm not much of a fantasy/sci-fi reader, but this had me completely hooked. If you don't believe me, ask any other indie bookseller in the nation.
Frederick Reiken, DAY FOR NIGHT
While the publisher is pitching this new book by Reiken as a novel, it's really more of a collection of interlinked stories. Set in the 1980s, DAY FOR NIGHT centers around 8 or so distinct individuals all linked to each other through one mysterious woman and several traumatic events.
David Mitchell, THE THOUSAND AUTUMNS OF JACOB DE ZOET (July 2010)
I'm only 15 pages into the galley, but I'm hooked. I'm mocked daily by fellow booksellers who discover I haven't read his previous novel, THE CLOUD ATLAS. I hope reading the new one early will give me back some of my street credit.
Emily Russo Murtagh
Impatient with Desire
By Gabrielle Burton
Before reading Gabrielle Burton’s Impatient with Desire, I knew very little about the tragic end of the Donner party. A true event in which settlers heading for California get stuck in the Sierra Nevada mountains and fight for survival amidst harsh winter and starvation.
George and Tamsen Donner strike out, with their five children, for adventure, land and fortune in 1846. Burton retells the tale in the voice of Tamsen, through the use of letters and journal entries. Burton writes beautifully not just about the tragic demise but the grit of human spirit. The ending is already known by most, but it is Burton’s lyrical writing as Tamsen that captures a story of the folly of being impatient with desire.
This next book would be more literary ficiton but it takes place during the Civil war.
Walking to Gatlinburg
By Howard Frank Mosher
This book was a beautiful read. It read cinematically but also viscerally; I could feel the snow falling on my face, smell the stench of the bad guys and feel the weight of Morgan’s gun. Starting in Vermont, Morgan Kinneson learns of his brother’s, Pilgrim’s, disappearance after the battle of Gettysburg.
Not wholly convinced that Pilgrim is dead Morgan gets it in his head to search for his brother himself. Before he makes any definite plans though, Morgan inadvertently gets involved with a mysterious band of outlaws who begin to follow him after they kill a runaway slave Morgan and his family are helping to escape to Canada.
I have to say that I loved the characters as much as I loved the writing and the story; even the bad guys were enjoyable, and Morgan’s heroism and daring make for an excellent read.