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Friday, November 25, 2011

Tasty Leftovers: more titles from Debi Faulkner and Terry Spear

SC Poe's Indie E-Book Sampler, #5

The day after Thanksgiving seemed like a suitable day to browse additional etitles by authors we've sampled in earlier posts. (But no turkey will be served up in this post.)
By Debi Faulkner
Self-published in 2010
Poe thinks this is YA historical dark fantasy + romance

First sentences: The smooth iron band felt cold—nothing like the heat it would summon. My hands shook as I placed it on my head.

The hook is strong, the time and settings fresh, the opening plunges us into crisis, and thereafter the pace never flags. Faulkner's scenes spring to life ("The chair dug ruts into the dirt floor.
. . ."). And Poe relishes nothing so much as a novel inspired by some obscure bit of history. In this case, the story-starter is an Irish legend about a Vicar who sells his maidservant's soul to the devil.

MC Meredith Pe
nnyfeather is only 7 when the Vicar takes her from her tenant-farming parents in lieu of a year's rent. By 15, she's summoning Legion. Scenes leapfrog forward in time and back again. (Some online volunteer reviewers like this mode of storytelling. Some don't, but the plot is fascinating enough to keep them snagged.)

The sample is generous—about 20% of the whole. NOTE: The story involves elements of dark magic.

If the romantic subplot seems a bit predictable, the main conflict is unique, and you don't have to like history at all to be hooked by this story.
The Dark Fae
By Terry Spear
Self-published in 2011

Poe thinks this is YA urban fantasy romance

First sentence: Alicia hadn't left her girlfriend sunbathing on the South Padre Island beach for more than a few minutes when another hot guy approached Cassie—only this one worried her.

Alicia is a voluble teen whose lonely and perilous gift is to see the fae. At least, she tells us she's in peril. The sample's light tone undercuts whatever darkness may be lurking. Entertaining, slightly suggestive situations (one fae, for example, paws through Alicia's underwear drawer) are treated with gum-snapping chick-lit humor. By sample end, we're still waiting to see some of that darkness. Poe must note some wobbly line-editing, and the narrative voice sometimes reads more like slapdash writing than flippant teen talk.

Poe liked another Spear title,
The Trouble With Demons, and showcased its sample last month. Spear has many books traditionally published; Heart of the Wolf was listed among Best Books of 2008 by Publisher's Weekly.

If you can't get enough of contemporary faerie tales, this one looks to be an entertaining variant.

Admittedly, this next title is not a leftover. Let's call it an appetizer, for Poe will sample another book by Neil Ostroff—
Insectland—in an upcoming post.
Tim Madison, Galactic Warrior
By Neil Ostroff
Self-published in 2011

Poe thinks this is MG fantasy

First sentences: Something was wrong! The air was too still. The house too quiet. Brady the neighbor’s obnoxious collie wasn’t barking outside.

Sly, guy humor and some unexpected twists enliven what might otherwise be just another ordinary-kid-saves-the-cosmos story. In 33 sentences, Neil Ostroff gives us the whole set-up and plunges Tim into his universe-shaking adventure.

The sample is extremely short, ending just as Tim is told that "The fate of your world, perhaps all worlds, rests on you." Poe expects that the rest of the story will give middle graders a fast (under 34 K words), fun read.

If Klingons and Wookies are your popcorn, then you may find yourself gobbling up this story in one sitting.

Poe's Rating System:

  • S for snapped up (Poe has already purchased the full)
  • Q for queued (the book is on Poe's to-be-read-someday list)
  • U for underwhelming (Poe will always explain the reason)
  • I for If/then (not Poe's cuppa, but perhaps it's yours)
  • R for rejected (Poe will always explain the reason)
  • E for editorially challenged (Poe will not mince words)

Caveat Emptor Internexi: Poe's samples are intended to provide a springboard for further browsing. Genre and age classifications are Poe's guesses based on short samples, and may or may not accord with the classifications suggested by authors, publishers, or anybody else. The buyer is always responsible for deciding whether the book as a whole is appropriate for the intended reader's age, interests, and reading level.

Poe's opinions do not necessarily reflect those of other members of this blog.

If you'd like SC Poe to sample your ebook on this blog, please follow submission guidelines.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thank You, Theodor

Dear Dr. Seuss,
it is truer than true,
the person I'm thankfullest for
would be you.

The people who know me best, incorrigible rhymeaholic that I am, will not be surprised that Dr. Seuss is who I feel most indebted to and most inspired by during this month of giving thanks.  I wanted to grow up to rhyme just like he did.  And back in 2003 when a reviewer of Here's What You Do When You Can't Find Your Shoe called it "...high-spirited verse of the light variety, enhanced by Seussian silliness...", I knew I could die a happy woman. 
Growing up, loving Dr. Seuss was a family affair.  My sisters and I were performing The Big Brag here in 1967 at our grandparents' house.  You can't really tell, but it was standing room only.  We brought the house down, or perhaps it was just the Christmas tree that later came down behind my sister Anne during an encore performance... 
Dr. Seuss' "unique nonsense books for children" were right up our alley.  In a family of eight children, who wouldn't love a story about a woman who had 23 sons and named them all Dave?  We loved every Sneetch and Lorax, every Umbus and Thnad. It was all so wonderfully silly.  Green Eggs and Ham? The Cat in the Hat? We loved performing the stories just to be a part of them, albeit briefly.  At the time I remember thinking the rhyme made it easier to memorize, or perhaps it was just that we'd already read our lines over and over and over again because we loved how Seuss tickled our tongues.
Fast forward now to me the children's author, rhyming along poem by poem.  I finally get a contract for my first book with Caitlyn Dlouhy at Atheneum and am thrilled. But what does she tell me that very same day? That rhyme is nearly impossible to sell since so much of it is done so poorly.  Curses! But I am not daunted.  That same year Hooray for Diffendoofer Day is published, begun by Dr. Seuss but completed by Jack Prelutsky and Lane Smith.  And in the back of the book, the most fabulous thing I've ever seen.  Reproductions of original  notes for the book - rough drafts that showed Dr. Seuss searching for just the right word, trying out different names for the school, for the teachers, crossing out some, adding others, scribbling and scratching along until he got it just right.  I don't know why I'd ever assumed that he just wrote one perfect version of everything, but this evidence of the trial and error way that even the great Dr. Seuss wrote made me feel validated. Rhyme didn't come so very easily to him all the time either! So I still love rhyme and I still write rhyme and I still get to read Dr. Seuss.  Have you seen the new/old The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories?
Yes, woe be to he
who is rhymeless and Seussless
for such an existence
is utterly useless.
Be thankful this Thursday
for turkey or goose,
while in my own home
I'll be thankful for Seuss.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanks, Verla Kay!

Olden times,
Picture books and
Cryptic rhymes.

Mentor, teacher,

Leads the way,
Built the Blue Board--
Verla Kay!

Kidlit forum,
Network gem,
(Verla kay dot
C, O, M.)

Newsie, viewsie
Questions? Answers?
All on Board!

Verla's newest PB

Teary? Weary?
End of rope?
Blue Board offers
Hugs and hope.

Selling? Kvelling?
Starred reviews?
Boarders gather,
Cheer the news.

Brag a blog,
Announce a book;
All on Board will
Take a look.

Verla's debut PB

"Does this house
Reply to queries?"
"Should I tell them
It's a series?"

Fonts and formats,
What's the rule?
"Been there, done that--
Here's the tool!"

My favorite Verla Kay title

Thank you, Verla!
You're Da Bomb!
(So is verla
Kay dot com.)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Giving Thanks at Thanksgiving

Well, it’s turkey time again and all thoughts turn to giving thanks. Here’s my list of top ten conventional (and some unconventional) resources that I, as a children’s book writer, am thankful for.

1. My Writer’s Group. Without their encouragement, insightful critiques and unwavering support I would have put aside my dream of writing early chapter books.

2. Panera’s Restaurant. Our morning critique group meets there and their egg souffl├ęs are delicious (to hell with the calories!)

3. The Mount Lebanon Library’s Used Bookstore. The library now has an area where they sell used books. I can buy inexpensive books and support the library at the same time.

4. Post-It Notes. I keep a pad next to my bed so late at night I can jot down any story idea that pops into my head.

5. White Erase Boards. They make it so easy to draw storyboards. I can visualize my entire story and even throw in a few simple illustrations. Whatever isn’t working can simply be erased.

6. Rainy Days. Who wants to sit at home writing on a sunny day? Rainy days I sit in a cozy chair with a cup of tea and get to work writing on my laptop.

7. Slush Piles. For those of us who don’t have agents this is the chance to have our manuscripts read and with a little bit of luck (O.K. tons of luck) get accepted.

8. Rhyme Zone (www.rhymezone.com.) This is one of my favorite web sites. Even when I’m not writing poems I use it in my stories for silly nicknames that rhyme.

9. Munchies. Writing for children is hard work so to make it more enjoyable I keep a bowl of grapes or some other snack by my side. (See recipe below)

10. Grandchildren. A great source of inspiration and insight into what kids are doing and thinking nowadays. Plus they’re the light of my life!

Popcorn-Banana Munch Mix (Family Fun Magazine)

·       2 cups cheese-flavored popcorn
·       1/2 to 1 cup banana chips, broken into small pieces
·       1 cup dry-roasted peanuts
·       1/2 to 1 cup sweetened, dried cranberries

1.  Measure all ingredients into a big bowl (you can substitute your family's favorite snack food, if desired).
2.  Stir well. Makes 5 to 6 cups.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thank You, Mrs. Martz: My Enduring Appreciation for a Teacher's Lesson in Perception

By Carol Baicker-McKee
Mrs. Martz, Second Grade Teacher at Nottingham Elementary School, Arlington, VA
It was one of those ordinary interactions in a school day.  A week later, I doubt Mrs. Martz, my second grade teacher, even remembered it. But though more than forty years have passed, I can step back into the moment as if it just happened. More importantly, the simple lesson from that afternoon has taken root in me and grown in ways that changed my art, my writing, and even my relationships.

It's an early fall afternoon and the classroom is quiet, save for the scratching of fat pencils on lined paper as we work on our spelling assignment. I look up and Mrs. Martz nods her head. It's my turn at the easel! I reach under my chair for the smock my mother has made for me out of an old green towel and pull it over my Brownie uniform.
Me in Grade 2

I slip to one of the easels along the windows at the back of the room. For a moment, I glance out at the monkey bars shining in the October sun, but the smooth, blank sheet of newsprint clipped to the easel commands my attention; to me, painting time beats even recess. I inhale the tang of freshly mixed tempera paint, and pull the thick wooden brush handle from the plastic cup of green paint, carefully wiping the excess off along the side until the weight of the brush seems just right.

With long strokes, I lay a lush lawn across the bottom of the paper, then wait for the paint to dry so as not to muddy my colors. I use red and black and blue to construct a sturdy house with a cheery red door and curtained windows. I top the steeply sloping roof with a chimney, and scrape almost all the black paint off the brush to feather smoke escaping from it.

A few more strokes and swirls and my house is flanked by twin lollipop trees - straight brown trunks topped with circles of green. Almost done. I add a triangle of yellow to the top left corner and streak yellow rays outward from the sun. Finally a line of blue across the very top - the sky above.

And then I notice her standing quietly behind me. Mrs. Martz smiles and nods, and then pulls me to look out the window with her.

"What a beautiful day," she says, gesturing to the playground and hills dotted with houses beyond. "What interesting shapes the trees and houses make. All the branches, and the way the sides of the houses look bright  in the sunshine but the fronts are in shade. And the colors of the leaves now - so bright, so many. But I love the sky especially, the deep blue that fills all the spaces around." She looks at me and smiles again. "It's nice to take the time to really look at the world, isn't it?"

I'm confused, but I smile and agree and walk back to the easel with her. "Do you need a little more time to finish your painting?" she asks.

I'm about to say no, but then I look at my painting - and then out the window. And I get it.


Even though my time should be up, Mrs. Martz lets me go back to work. This time, I glance back and forth between my paper and the view out the window. It's too late to make all the changes I want to, but I add a narrow side with an extra window to my house, frowning because I can't get it to fit quite right. I snake crooked branches from the stick trunks of my trees and I dot the foliage with red and yellow, scatter more dots on the lawn below.

Finally, I add blue. Blue over the sun because I don't see it out the window, I just see what it does to the world. Blue behind everything because now I see that the sky is not just above us but all around.

I finish dissatisfied with my painting even though I'd felt proud of it before. But from that moment forward, my artwork changes. The way I approach my work changes. I struggle to figure out perspective. Mix colors to get the right shades. Try to capture shadows, flaws, details. Take my time and try again when I can't get something right the first time.

Really, everything changes in me. I find myself looking and looking, looking and thinking. Trying and trying to see what's actually there instead of what I expect or want to be there.

I've had many excellent teachers since then, and I am grateful to them all. But without Mrs. Martz, I'm not sure I'd have been able to take advantage of everything that they had to offer me.

Thank you Mrs. Martz.
Apple Tree in My Backyard. Painted from life the next spring

Monday, November 14, 2011

11/11/11 - 11 Ways to Make the Most After the Conference

by Marcy Collier & Kitty Griffin

Tri-Conference SCBWI Agent Panel

Kitty and I attended the SCBWI Tri-Regional Conference in Gettsyburg last weekend. For the first time, the regions of Eastern and Western Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and West Virginia joined together for an action-packed weekend. We heard delightful and inspiring tales from Patricia MacLachlan, Jim Murphy, E.B. Lewis and Lin Oliver. We participated in exciting workshops and got to know many of the agents and editors. On the ride home, we discussed strategies on how to make the most AFTER the conference.

1. Write thank you notes:  If there was an agent, editor, author or illustrator who you enjoyed meeting or talking with at the conference, send a handwritten thank you note. Not an email or a tweet, an honest-to-goodness handwritten note thanking them and letting them know you appreciated meeting them at the conference.

2. Type up your conference notes or if you jotted them on your IPAD, decipher your scribble. An attendee’s head is filled with industry information after a conference. If you wait a week, your notes may not make sense.

3. DON’T – and yes, this is a shouting – DON’T – mail out your manuscript the moment you return home. Consider what the panel said about your first page. Allow the criticism you received during the manuscript review to percolate for a while. Sit down and make the suggested changes. DON’T send your manuscript until it’s ready or as Jim Murphy so eloquently put it, “Your manuscript doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be good enough.”

4. Identify the agents or editors who you feel would best represent your work. It is important to meet these professionals in person. You get a good feel for their tastes and their personalities. That is why conferences are so very important.

5. Research. Research. Research. Research the agents and editors from the conference. Read books that they have published before you send to them.  

6. Check out publishers’ and authors’ websites and guidelines. If you’re going to submit, read the guidelines and pay attention to the rules before you submit.

7. Keep your query letter to the point. Tell the editor or agent why you’ve targeted them specifically. Do not argue or become defensive in your query letter. Keep your letter focused.

8. Stay in touch with other writers or illustrators you’ve met at the conference. Think of your colleagues as fellow travelers who can help you on your journey. You will inspire, encourage and share stories with the people you met and make lasting friendships.

9.  Challenge yourself. Pick one weakness in your writing (plot, characterization, voice, etc.). Go to the library. Read as many books as you can on craft. Study. Work hard until this aspect of your craft soars.

10. Embrace social media. Expand your social network. If you sign with an agency, you are expected to use these social networking tools. Many of us fear the technology because it is new to us. Learn it and use it. The Route 19 bloggers have been fearful to join Twitter for a long time now. Kitty and I listened to some interesting conversations regarding social media. Based on what I heard, I signed up for a Twitter account today.

11. Give yourself a deadline to submit to an editor or agent. Don’t become a revision addict. Do not make excuses or procrastinate. Get the manuscript ready and send it off. Be polite, have business sense and believe in yourself and your work.

And if you do as Kitty and I have suggested, you will make the most out of your conference!

Friday, November 11, 2011

A long-overdue "Thank You" during this Thanksgiving season


Dave Amaditz                                                                                                                                                                                       
Hey. Maybe I'm going to sound like a sports star giving a "shout out" to the camera, but when it comes to writing, the first person I'd like to thank is my mother. She was my first editor, a fact I was not too thrilled about when I was younger. "Use a stronger verb," she'd say. "Shorten this. Add more here. Be clearer." It seemed my work was never done well enough for her.
But I have no doubt my mother's attention to detail and insistence on my need to re-work projects before I submitted them made me a better student and prepared me for all the rewriting I do today. And by the way, as a parent, I do the same thing with my children... Something they're not too thrilled about either.
Today, my current writer's group (everyone at Route 19 Writers) is most responsible for keeping me in the game. Their ongoing support, fine critiques and sage advice are the shot in the arm I need to help me muddle my way through the ups and downs of writing.  Also, I think it's fair to say I may have gotten thrown off track before I'd gotten too far into the course if it hadn't been for Pat Easton, and my first writer’s group. Pat and the group, with patience and the right touch of criticism, eased me slowly into the world of children's writing. Our weekly meetings at Peters Township Public Library helped to build the confidence I needed for success.
I recommend a writing group to everyone, particularly those who are just beginning. If you live in or around the Pittsburgh area, especially southern Pittsburgh, visit the Peters Township Library to see if there is room in one of the writing groups held there. http://www.ptlibrary.org/ Check out your local library to see if there is a writer’s group in your area. Join SCBWI, the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. http://www.scbwi.org/ They have many local chapters you can join and many supportive members who are ready and willing to help.  
If my mother were still with us I can imagine her being very eager to offer critique to my work, but I know in my heart she'd certainly be happy knowing that in my writing groups I've found a place to share stories and improve my writing. And that makes me happy, too.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bad Calls: A Coach's Real Life 'Turning Point'

by Jenny Ramaley

One of Lyle Lovett’s lyrics says something like “…one bad move can turn your world upside down…” In a preemptive strike against those bad moves, our community’s incoming freshman attend a special program before they start high school. The administration tries to make the evening entertaining by bringing in a motivational speaker, a personable police officer who warns about getting into trouble with drugs and drinking, and our home-spun local magistrate who’ll dish out sentencing for the students who fail to heed the officer’s advice.  Why go to all this trouble? Because the administrators want to get through the heads of these kids that one bad decision, one single moment, can negatively impact the rest of their life.  Does the program work? Maybe.  While my girls rolled their eyes after the program, they’ve never been arrested for underage drinking.
                I suspect that it helps young people when the ‘make good choices’ message bombards them from multiple directions: schools, parents, TV & movies, and of course, books. Key, life-altering  moments are often used as ‘turning points’ or ‘1st crisis’ in the structure of a novel or screenplay.

                Here’s an example. The main character in Kevin Brooks’ Martyn Pig  http://www.amazon.com/Martyn-Pig-Kevin-Brooks/dp/1905294166/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_2
shoves his alcoholic dad during an argument and accidently kills him. Overwhelmed and shocked, the teenager doesn’t call the police. This one bad decision snowballs until it’s too late the call for help and spirals into a gut-clenching resolution filled with betrayal.
                Good novels subtly demonstrate without a whiff of preachiness how these ‘bad calls’ can turn out. As parents, teachers, librarians and writers, we hope that fictional stories will subtly reinforce the need to make ‘good calls’ when young people are faced with thorny situations --where they have a split second to make a decision.  
                Unfortunately, sometimes real life gives us horrific examples of people making really ‘bad calls.’ Unless you’ve been locked in a room finishing a young adult novel, you’ve probably heard about the sex abuse scandal at Penn State. My daughter is in her junior year at “Happy Valley”, or so it’s called, although it wasn’t a very happy place for the children who were abused, so we are horrified by what’s happening at her school.
                What’s especially dismaying about this case is how many people are supporting the now-former head coach, Joe Paterno.  JoePa, as he is known by students and alumni, is a powerful man at Penn State and in Center County. For him to cling to the legal argument that he did what he was required to do (ie, kick the news of a brutal rape upstairs to his bosses), but not to demand police involvement when he saw his superiors do nothing, is beyond comprehension.
                JoePa’s moment of decision making, his ‘one bad move’, will now tarnish his long, reknown career. Shame on him and all of the adults who failed these children.

Granted, this isn’t a typical topic for a children’s book blog, but I'm just trying to make some kind of sense out of all this. Can we use this awful situation to help teach our young adults to make good decisions, so as adults, they can make sound decisions when they are confronted with an injustice? If you’ve been following the sorry Penn State story, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has some insightful articles and editorials about the case:

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Pleasant Surprise

Dave Amaditz

Science fiction is not something I normally grab as a first choice to read. But while scanning the Amazon store on my iPad I came across a newly published book by Paulo Bacigalupi, Ship Breaker.
Paulo Bacigalupi easily lifted me into, and kept me inside, the futuristic world he created.
I was pulling for Nailer, the teenage protagonist, from the start. I wanted for Nailer to achieve his dream and escape the horrific conditions he was forced to endure in order to eek out a meager existence. The story was adventurous and exciting, but more than that, thought-provoking.
Some of the questions addressed within the novel are best asked by Bacigalupi himself in his 2011 Printz Award Speech.
"What happens when energy stops being cheap? How high will our sea levels rise? How easy is it to disrupt an ecosystem and make it unravel? What happens if our political dialogue continues down this path of name-calling and denialism? What happens if the rich make up a microscopic percentage of a nation, but control the majority of its wealth?"
Visit this website if you want to read the entire speech. http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/yalsa/booklistsawards/printzaward/Printz.cfm#current
If you're looking to be drawn into a futuristic world that might someday be our own, then give this book a try.
Want to read any other material by Paulo? Check out this website for a list of his other works.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Re-Issued: Piers Anthony, John Bellairs, Sidney Rosen, Tom Lalicki on E-Reads

SC Poe's Indie E-Book Sampler, #4

Today, Poe focuses on the work of a single e-publisher.

E-Reads describes itself as "the oldest independent e-book publisher in the field." They re-issue out-of-print fiction and non-fiction, sharing Poe's special affection for sci fi, fantasy, bios, and mysteries. (For those who prefer the feel of a book in print, they offer most of their titles in paperback, too.)

So far, their list features about two dozen YA and MG-level titles, which E-Reads lumps together as "young adult." (Hint to E-Reads' marketing department: more finely-tuned categories like Middle Grade mysteries, and books for boys might help readers find the books.)

Poe the Pedant could wish for more rigorous final proofing; as you will see in the Houdini sample, mechanical formatting and spell-check programs are not completely reliable. It's also a pity that some of the original covers and artwork evidently can't be re-issued. (And Poe would like to see a credit for the evocative interior drawings in Face in the Frost.)

Overall, E-Reads is rated I for If you're a parent, teacher, librarian, or other seeker of vintage classics, bookmark the E-Reads web site and keep track of their continued offerings.

Now for some specifics:

The Cluster Series

By Piers Anthony
Originally published Avon, 1977; revised and reissued by E-Reads, 2008
Poe thinks this is classic sci-fi suitable for YA

First sentence: "We have ascertained that this person is an alien creature occupying a human body," the Minister of Alien Spheres said formally.

Piers Anthony being Piers Anthony, there's little call for Poe to review the sample itself. All that's needed is to announce that all five Cluster titles are available without waiting for inter-library loans or combing the spidery Web for costly, shopworn copies. Spread the word!

Rated Q for Queued to re-read at leisure.

The Curse of the Blue Figurine
(The Johnny Dixon Series)

By John Bellairs
1983; E-Reads reissue July, 2011
Poe thinks this is MG vintage mystery

First sentence: It was a cold winter evening in January. The year was 1951.

This enduring series is new to Poe, who missed it entirely the many times it was issued (by Bantam Skylark, Puffin, and Dial, among other presses). The eight books have gothic titles like The Mummy, the Will, and the Crypt and The Spell of the Sorcerer's Skull. Set during the Korean War, the books would have felt like historicals, even for readers of the first edition. The two titles Poe sampled felt less edgy and gothic than, say, Zilpha Keatley Snyder, whose publishing history overlaps Bellairs'. But mystery fans always want more mysteries, of every variety, so Poe rejoices to see these re-issued.

If you're an MG mystery fan, you should certainly give these a try.

The Face in the Frost

By John Bellairs
1969; E-Reads re-issue 1999
Poe thinks this is classic fantasy suitable for YA

First sentence: Several centuries (or so) ago, in a country whose name doesn't matter, there was a tall, skinny, straggly-bearded old wizard named Prospero, and not the one you are thinking of, either.

Unfortunately, that opening is preceded by a Prologue which begins, "Prospero and Roger Bacon, the two main characters in a story that seems crammed with wizards, were wizards," and drones on from there with a lengthy explanation of the geopolitical world of this fantasy. Back in the infancy of the fantasy genre, when readers ravened for the next Lord of the Rings, this Prologue would have been tolerated. Today, Poe thinks it doesn't belong in the sample, but only in the full version.

And Poe does wish the sample were structured to more quickly snag and hold attention, because this title is a fantasy classic that deserves to be much better known.

If you like Gandalf, you are likely to enjoy Prospero and Bacon.

Galileo and the Magic Numbers

By Sidney Rosen
Little, Brown & Co., 1958; E-Reads reissue July, 2010
Poe thinks this is MG fictionalized bio

First sentence: Galileo lay on his back, hands under his head, and stared up at the crack that zigzagged across the ceiling.

Houdini: The Ultimate Spellbinder

By Tom Lalicki
Holiday House, 2000 (as Spellbinder); E-Reads reissue September, 2011
Poe thinks this is MG/YA biography

First sentence: In 1876, when Mayer Samuel Weiss sailed to seek his fortune in the New World, his hopes for the future must have been mingled with sad, ness [sic] and regret.

So far, E-Reads has issued two biographies for young readers, in contrasting styles.

In Galileo, Rosen introduces some complicated history (such as the art patronage system) and themes (speaking truth to power) by fleshing out what we know of Galileo's boyhood. Galileo might strike a young reader as a bit of a Fauntleroy, pre-maturely patient with his cranky mother's fears about money. But anybody who chooses this book probably already knows the MC's destined for greatness and will tolerate such preternatural goodness.

Lalicki, whose life of Houdini is written in a workmanlike, reference-book style, is the author of the two Houdini & Nate historical whodunits for FSG.

Both bios were well-reviewed when first published. Good job, E-Reads, for keeping them accessible. Note to librarians: It looks like the publisher is open to suggestions for other books to re-issue.

Both books rated I for If you stock a library or have kids who like/need quality biographies, keep your focus on E-Reads for these and future offerings.

Poe's Rating System:

  • S for snapped up (Poe has already purchased the full)
  • Q for queued (the book is on Poe's to-be-read-someday list)
  • U for underwhelming (Poe will always explain the reason)
  • I for If/then (not Poe's cuppa, but perhaps it's yours)
  • R for rejected (Poe will always explain the reason)
  • E for editorially challenged (Poe will not mince words)

Caveat Emptor Internexi: Poe's reviews are intended to provide a springboard for further browsing. Genre and age classifications are Poe's guesses based on short samples, and may or may not accord with the classifications suggested by authors, publishers, or anybody else. The buyer is always responsible for deciding whether the book as a whole is appropriate for the intended reader's age, interests, and reading level.

Poe's opinions do not necessarily reflect those of other members of this blog.

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