Please join us to discuss everything literary (especially kid literary): good books, the writing life, the people and businesses who create books, controversies in book world, what's good to snack on while reading and writing, and anything else bookish. We welcome your thoughts.

Friday, October 31, 2014

You can count on the Count for a little Halloween Humor

Happy Halloween!

In the spirit of the season, pun intended, I'd like to share two vampire poems:  One by Kenn Nesbitt, U.S. Children's Poet Laureate, and one by Andrea Perry, resident Route 19 Writers rhymer.  You can count on both of them to produce a toothy grin:)
I think my dad is Dracula.
I know that sounds insane,
but listen for a moment and
allow me to explain.

We don't live in a castle,
and we never sleep in caves.
But, still, there's something weird
about the way my dad behaves.

I never see him go out
in the daytime when it's light.
He sleeps all day till evening,
then he leaves the house at night.

He comes home in the morning
saying, "Man, I'm really dead!"
He kisses us goodnight, and then
by sunrise he's in bed.

My mom heard my suspicion
and she said, "You're not too swift.
Your father's not a vampire.
He just works the graveyard shift."
--Kenn Nesbitt

Count Dracula is getting old

And less bloodthirsty, we are told.

As far from youth as you can be

And so long in the tooth is he,

That we have heard his bark, at night,

Is worse for victims than his bite.
--Andrea Perry                                  

Friday, October 17, 2014

Five Fall Favorites on Friday from Frankenstein to Falling Leaves by Andrea Perry

Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich
by Adam Rex

"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade ..." or in this case, if the villagers chase you with torches and pelt you with rotten produce, make a sandwich!  Adam Rex delights us with a number of stories about monsters, and even some about monsters AND food.  Some of the hilarious offbeat monster subjects include The Creature from the Black Lagoon, who went swimming too soon after eating, The Lunchsack of Notre Dame, a lament about why one hump lumps this poor lad with all the other monsters, and Count Dracula Doesn't Know He's Been Walking Around All Night With Spinach in His Teeth, since of course his castle has no mirrors.  Who should tell him so he's not embarrassed any further?? Halloween Hilarity Abounds.

My Monster Mama Loves Me So
by Laura Leuck and Mark Buehner

A light breezy monster verse about how baby monster knows how much its mother loves it.  Who else but a loving parent would take their child to the swamp to swim, bake cookies filled with bugs, comb cobwebs out of their bangs, or breathe fire to start a cozy blaze in the fireplace? If your monster mama also tucks you into bed at night with a bat, that's how much you are loved.

Leaf Man
by Lois Ehlert

Have you seen him?  Leaf Man, a life-sized leaf collage (with body parts identified on a separate ending page) traveling across pages of die-cut panoramas, is simply beautiful.  And after you enjoy his wondrous autumn adventure, you too will go looking for your own "leaf man" (or woman!)  as the rainbow of October leaves gently drift and glide all around us.

Monday's Troll
by Jack Prelutsky and Peter Sis

Mother Ogre's Lullaby, just one of the seventeen poems in this monstrous collection, has always been one of my favorites:
     "Hush baby ogre, stop raving and rest,
     Slumber, sweet savage impossible pest.
     Stifle your tantrum, no kicking, don't bite.
     Close your red eye...baby ogre, good-night."

We also visit with witches, trolls, Bigfoot, wizards and goblins, not to mention a solitary yeti feasting on dinosaur bones. From stale witch birthday cakes with snakes instead of candles, to an invisible wizard unable to reverse its spell, to a troll full of sour applesauce, you will enjoy all of their garish gruesomeness.

The Monsterator
by Keith Graves

 Who could resist a Halloween book with a cover such as this, advertising "625 Monsters Inside...Can You Find Them All?"
Meet Edgar, a poor bored boy who can't find a Halloween costume scary enough to scarify him.  He wanders past costume shops until he happens upon one he'd not noticed before.  Dark and understaffed, he finds an odd machine there, puts in a dime and steps inside.  So goes the rhymed verse tale of the Monsterator Machine, and what happens to Edgar once inside, complete with the fun final pages of a partitioned flipbook to monsterate on your own.

If you like to be scared silly, I am sure that one of these books is likely to delight!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Fall = Comforting Food and Comforting Books

Books Cecelia loves to EAT!
by Danika Lagorio

Ceclia--book lover

From pumpkin spice lattes to eggplant soup to apple everything else I am afraid that fall is becoming a dangerously fat time for me.  And reading to Cecelia at bedtime might be the most perilous of all.  There are some delicious fall books out there that fill our dreams with scrumptious delights.   So please join us on our big comfy bed (Ce-Ce and I will try and move our big butts over) for:
an evening of adventure with food and books

First Course

Growing Vegetable Soup, by Lois Ehlert
Like many of Ehrlich’s books, Growing Vegetable Soup is simple in text and image, but deep in understanding of small children.  Using her classic bold colored art prints Ehrlich illustrates the tools and care needed to grow vegetable soup.   Cecelia just now really understands that seeds will transform with time and care into yummy vegetables.  For a girl who loves lyricism in her books, I think the appeal of this one is its ability to turn a complex idea into its most simple terms.

Main Course

Strega Nona, by Tomie de Paola
Strega Nona has been a favorite of Cecelia’s long before this fall, but on these cool evenings I find myself dreaming of eating mounds of Grandma Witch’s hot and wonderful pasta.  Long ago in a little town in Calabria there lives a witch called Strega Nona, which means “grandma witch”.  She has a magic pot that makes pasta on command.  The magic pot will keep making pasta until it is told to stop.  Unfortunately for Strega Nona’s assistant, Big Anthony (who never pays attention) misses how to stop the pot.  Craziness ensues when Strega Nona goes out for the day and Big Anthony decides to show off for the town by making everyone pasta.  Is it the bad Italian accents that my husband Jon and I use while reading this book? Maybe it is sweet and silly illustrations of Tomie de Paola’s?  Or it could be the idea of a whole town covered in pasta.  One thing is for sure- Ce-ce always has two or three helping to this charming book.


How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World
by Marjorie Priceman
Save room for this one!  Cecelia usually skips the main courses and just demands this one.  Told in second person, Ms. Priceman takes “you” on an adventure around the world from Italy to Sri Lanka in pursuit of the finest ingredients for a perfect apple pie. The illustrations are the sugar and spice of this wonderful adventure.  We spend a lot of time studying each picture.  Ce-Ce loves looking for the cats who show up in places where cats usually are not like boats and train stations.  I love the banana boat headed for Jamaica.  I always pause a little longer on that page so that I can imagine collecting salt water at night on such a romantic boat.  It is a perfect book to finish off the night (with or without ice-cream).


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Are We So OVER YA Dystopian?


by Kitty Griffin

First of all, just what is a Dytopian Book?
It’s the opposite of a Utopian Book.

According to Dictionary.com it’s

“a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding.”

Hmmm. Not sure I’m in complete agreement when we talk about YA Dystopia because I consider Robert O’Brien’s novel (soon coming out as a major motion picture with hunky hunk Chris Pine and gorgeous Margot Robbie—who is way too old for the part. Sigh. Why???) Z for Zachariah a dystopian, but when it opens we don’t know what’s become of the outside world, but things at the farm seem normal. It’s just that mushroom shaped cloud in the far distance…

And Lois Lowry’s book, The Giver (again where Hollywood put someone 25 in a role meant for someone much younger. Grump. Grump.) society is very calm, quiet, and no one is in squalor. They don’t even realize they’re oppressed.

So I’m going to tweak this definition and make it for YA Dystopian Book,
A story that takes place in an unfamiliar future where people might be oppressed but they won’t know it until the main character discovers it for them. Then the main character will be igniting the spark that starts the revolution so society becomes free until it becomes oppressed and the people don’t know until the main character discovers it for them.

Let’s see…that fits for a number of books, albeit with a touch of snark.

Maybe I’ve read too many YA Dystopian Books. Not all of them stellar.

Because of the “Hunger Games” series this type of book has become hugely popular. Just type in Dystopian YA into Amazon search  and see how many hits you get.

Why would kids want to read about kids surviving in a difficult future?

Well, with Hunger Games the stakes couldn’t be much higher, right? Life or Death. Same with the new book Red Rising.
When it’s Life or Death the main character is in peril very quickly.

So then the reader must ask, why does the main character want to live? Why did Katniss? Because she wanted to protect her mother and sister. It was LOVE. It was FAMILY.

While there were a fantastic number of Dystopian YA books right after Hunger Games, things may slow down, but my guess is, not for long.
I think this is a genre that will continue to interest teens.

Here is a small selection, no special order. 

Z for Zachariah by Robert O’Brien

A bit dated, but holds up. What if you lived with your family in a remote valley, farming the land, living simply? What if one day you stayed behind while they went into town to get supplies? What if they never came back? What if the radio went out, the TV went out, and what’s that weird mushroom cloud in the distance? What if you thought you were the last person alive on Earth until…is that someone on the ridge far away?

The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

In this future world there is a country called Opium, a land of that produces the wonderful drug that makes pain go away. In this land is a boy named Matt. Why is he so despised? Why do others treat him so abysmally?
Because Matt isn’t quite human. He is, but he came out of the belly of a cow. He was harvested, just like the opium from the poppy. He was grown to help prevent pain. Because his parts are useful to the old man who needs those parts, the drug lord, Matt’s original body.

Feed by MT Anderson
What if you were bored? What if you could go to the moon to party? Right. Like, let's go!
This is set in the future where every kid wants to be attached to the FEED, to have the chip put right in the head to see the world electronically…but what if your girlfriend doesn’t want the chip any more? What's a boy to do? 
The opening to this book is brilliant.

Mortal Engines by Philip Reeves
What if your city was hungry and needed to eat? What if your city was London and it was up on tractors and had to be on the move to find smaller cities to survive?
Yeah. Social Darwinism taken all the way to this.
The fabric of the imagination stretched. The characters are memorable and the joy of imagining London as this living moving thing is fabulous. 

Tanglewreck by Jeanette Winterson
Reviews were very mixed for this book. I loved it. Couldn’t put it down. (Some people were confused by the heavy physics, oh well.)

This book is another imagination stretcher. For what if you lived in a world where twisters raged through the land, but these were time twisters that brought things from other times and left them as well as taking others away from their own time?

Red Rising by Pierce Brown
(Listened to this one via Audible)

Talk about imagination stretched! The Earth is dead. Long live Mars!
Darrow is a Red. In a color coded society, being Red is, well, almost dead. He’s a miner, giving his life so that Mars can be mined and tamed and turned into a livable planet for dying Earthlings.
Only that’s all a lie.
And to prove it, Darrow will become Gold, take away the "L" and you have god, for he will be close to being god-like. That’s the ruling class.
Warning: extremely violent. This one is not for sissies. These kids are at war to survive and it isn't pretty.
But, you'll just panic wondering what is going to happen to Darrow?
I can’t wait for book two. And that doesn't happen very often.

Now here is one that is quite popular, but I had a serious problem with it. (Maybe the problem arose because, again, I listened to it. Maybe it just wasn't a listening story)

Unwind by Neal Shusterman
I liked the characters well enough.
But I couldn’t get past the stretch.

Here it is—that in the future the Anti-Choice and Pro-Choice factions go to war. The result? That parents can return a child between the age of 13-18 and that said child would be unwound. All their parts, their organs, every bit of their being, will be donated to those who need them. 

I know teens can be miserable creatures to live with, but it’s also when they can amaze you. I can’t conceive of a world where this would happen. Therefore, I couldn’t accept the premise.

But the book is hugely popular. I’m in the minority for this one.

Looking toward the future...

So, what do you think? Do you agree that teens will still want to read about an imagined future where a teenager figures out that grown ups are really stupid and they're crushing humanity and it will take a teen or a group of teens to save them all?

Yeah. Like, duh, of course dude.

Monday, October 6, 2014

First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Nearly Gone

by Elle Cosimano

Elle Cosimano

This past Friday, October 3, 2014, Marcy and I posted our answers to Elle’s fantastic debut novel, Nearly Gone. Today, you get to read Elle’s favorite’s. We hope you enjoy reading them as much we enjoyed reading the novel.

 What is your favorite line or paragraph from the novel as it relates to the main character's development and/or growth?

Hard science follows rules. Its assertions are quantifiable and concrete. Clamp down the facts under a bright light and magnify them to the 10x power until the details are so clear, the truth isn’t a matter of debate. It just is.
2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?

The room was pink with twilight shadows.
Found a stray cat.
Think he belongs to you.
Tonight @9. The answer’s in the box.
I checked the clock and pulled out my phone.
Less than one hour to find him.
3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?

I’m head over heels in love with Lonny Johnson. He takes “bad” to a whole new (and deadly) level, which should make him completely unlikeable. He’s a violent drug dealer, powerful within his community and terrifying to look at. But Lonny is street-smart and astute, wise beyond his years, and these layers to his character are so much fun to write.

4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description?

We zoomed down the street, the bike leaning into the curves, wind whipping over me. The faster we went, the more Reece’s bitterness faded. I pressed into his back until all I could smell was the leather tang of his jacket, and all I could taste was the sweet thrill of flying away.
5) What is your favorite line of dialogue?

Nearly is an analytical thinker with a scientific mind. One day, while tutoring Reece Whelan, she tells him, “Just because it’s complicated, doesn’t mean there isn’t a solution.” I feel like this one line captures so much of her intelligence, her resilience, and her spirit.

Congratulations to Elle on her debut novel Nearly Gone. We can’t wait to read Nearly Found in June 2015! You can check out Elle’s October 2nd Huffington Post article and cover reveal.

To find out more about Elle, check out the following links: