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May 2009

End-o'-the-Week Kid-Lit Roundup

Quick links from around the kid-lit blogosphere:

51nJ3eDhl5L._SL500_AA240_Catching Fire catching fire. The sequel to Hunger Games doesn't come out until September, but a few coveted advance copies have begun trickling out. Read one lucky reader's happy early assessment. The blog Collecting Children's Books has a great idea for the next advance-reader release: put out a *single* copy and let people duke it out in a Hunger Games-style battle royal for the right to read it.

Horn Book's latest stars. Read Roger recently revealed which titles would receive starred reviews in the July-August Horn Book Magazine, including Machines Go to Work and a Silas favorite, The Sleepy Little Alphabet.

The BBC on "Blood and bedtime stories." "There's rarely room in children's books for scenes of slaughter and pictures of people being impaled, so why does one author want to change this?" (via Bookninja)

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11Eric Carle animal flash cards. These look great. The brand-new Twenty by Jenny doesn't disappoint, with a review of Eric Carle's animal flash cards.

Diversity in board books. We previously mentioned this post on board books from the new PBS kid-lit blog Booklights. Thanks to some of the comments, they've followed up with another board-book post, this time about titles with more racially diverse characters (including Spike Lee's Please, baby, please).

A Dragon in a Wagon scans. Some kind blogger has posted high-res images from this fun Magic Castle Reader:
Diw-3

(via Super Punch)

CoverDon't miss these classic reissues. School Library Journal has a roundup of "fresh new reissues," new editions of beloved kids' books. We pretty much freaked out the first time we saw the new edition of 1971's Theodore and the Talking Mushroom.

James Preller interviews Fuse #8's Betsy Bird. Ha ha ha. Includes references to ferret-dancing, cheese logs, Freemasonry, and a certain similarity between Ralph Nader and Dr. Seuss.

Details on Coraline DVDs. Industry newsletter Cynopsis Kids has an exhaustive rundown on all the specs:

"Universal Studios Home Entertainment releases the stop-motion animated feature film Coraline, available on Blu-ray HD combo pack, 2-Disc Collector's Edition DVD and single disc DVD on July 21, 2009. While all editions feature both the 2D and 3D versions of the film and four pairs of 3-D glasses, the Blu-ray HD and 2-Disc Collector's Edition DVD also include a digital copy of the movie, as well as a range of bonus features. The Blu-ray HD combo back also includes a standard def DVD of the movie, and additional bonus features, including more interviews with director Henry Selick and behind-the-scenes exclusives within Universal's U-Control and BD-Live features."

Let's Do Nothing trailer. There's trailer out for this fun new book from author-illustrator-animator Tony Fucile (and an interview, too):

(via Cynsations) --Paul

Omni Daily News

ROTOOFL*:  Kasper Hauser, a San Francisco-based comedy troupe, has yet to hack into President Obama's vaunted BlackBerry, but that hasn't stopped them from musing about its contents.  The satirical Obama's BlackBerry publishes next month, and is chock-full of "phony texts and emails that poke fun at the nation’s first BlackBerry-toting president and the people who need (or at least want) to message him."

My personal favorite:

BidenMyTime: Hey U, whatcha doin?
BARACKO: M rly busy
BidenMyTime: Right :( Can I lv at 4:45?

*For the uninitiated: Rolling on the Oval Office Floor Laughing

Secrecy sells:  Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami knows how to work a book release.  1Q84, his first book in five years, debuted today after months of speculation over its plot.  After enduring early leaks with his last book, Kafka on the Shore, Murakami refused to provide any pre-pub details this time around.

"The secrecy surrounding the work has made customers desperate to get hold of this book," Toshiaki Uchida, assistant manager of a bookshop in central Tokyo, told the Associated Press.

Judging by the agency's brief review – one of the first to appear – 1Q84 is classic Murakami, It is described as a "complex and surreal narrative" that "shifts back and forth between tales of two characters, a man and a woman, who are searching for each other."

Headline of the Week:  Kanye No Fan of Books; Also: Please Buy His Book


Graphic Novel Friday: Kingdoms Come

A common complaint tossed at superhero comics is that the storytelling isn’t always the most inviting. Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, even the X-Men, all have years and years of stories under their utility belts.  While daunting, the best new superhero comics aren't slaves to that history but instead use it as a skeleton for fresh drama. 

Take Kingdom Come, a DC Comics mini-series dating back to 1996. Penned by Mark Waid and lavishly painted by Alex Ross (Justice), Kingdom Come is not only a superhero comic, but it is also an “Elseworlds “superhero comic. When the constraints of continuity are too great for even the professionals, stories can take place in Elseworlds. Basically, it’s carte blanche for the writer and artist to do whatever they want with classic heroes without fear of repercussions in the “regular” titles on the racks every week.

Kingdom Come was written smack dab in the middle of the 1990s, a dark time for superhero comics. Then, superheroes were more anti-hero than hero. And so Kingdom Come took that attitude and brought it to the forefront as a critique disguised in a great story.

In it, a very “anti” anti-hero, Magog--complete with shoulder-pads and a scarred eye (in reference to the posterboy for 1990s comics, the X-Man Cable)—took a stand against supervillainy and murdered The Joker. It wasn’t a “comic book” killing, where the body was never found. No, Magog publicly executed the Clown Prince of Crime, and the crowd cheered at the death. In fact, when Superman floated down to admonish Magog, Metropolis citizens asked why this hadn’t been done earlier. What followed is of course a poignant look at how the 1990s-era of comics could never last, and a world without Superman (Supes permanently relocated to his Fortress of Solitude in protest) isn’t much of a world at all.

However, the insular nature of comics can sometimes allow for a very fun payoff, evidenced by the decision of Geoff Johns, a superhero writer if there ever were one, to bring back Kingdom Come some 13 years later. This was no small task, given the reverence Kingdom Come has earned over the years, both in its scope (the cast is in the hundreds) and quality (DC released an Absolute Edition not too long ago). In Justice Society of America, Johns plucks the Superman from Kingdom Come and drags him into the “regular” DC continuity to witness the heralding of yet another Magog. As simple as it sounds on paper, an Elseworlds crossover is fairly unique, and plenty of eyes were on Geoff & Co. as they delicately caused worlds to collide in the wink-winking-ly titled Thy Kingdom Come event.

To do so, Johns gave himself plenty of room. The original story is collected as one book at approximately 212 pages. Thy Kingdom Come is collected as three books, each at about 160 pages. The collision of storylines is a natural fit because both stories are very much about the legacy of superheroism. In Kingdom Come, we see a world populated with the sons and daughters of the heroes and villains we knew, and the impressions they carve into the world with their actions. The JSA is about the “old guard” of superheroes (the first Green Lantern, the first Flash, etc.) ushering in a new era of younger heroes.

KC Superman arrives to much skepticism. After all, our world already has a Superman, while this new guy has gray at his temples and a black-colored insignia on his chest. Sure enough, both Supermen meet, allowing, particularly in Book 3, for a few nice moments between KC Superman and Lois Lane. Here, KC Supes recounts to Lois how her Elseworld counterpart died. “The burdens of the Supermen are shared by the Lois Lanes of the universe,” Lois says.

Along with Johns’ surehanded grasp of his characters' voices, Thy Kingdom Come excels in its artwork. Dale Eagelsham has the unenviable task of drawing countless heroes, each with his or her own costume, not to mention distinguishing two Supermen from each other. In Book 2, however, Jerry Ordway hops aboard to take over artistic duties for yet another interlacing of universes. Without spoiling too much, one character returns home to a parallel earth that is happily stuck in the Silver Age of comics. Ordway’s pencils fit these chapters and scenes with certainty. While jarring when compared to Eaglesham’s finely posed work, that’s exactly the point. Ordway is careful to never be too cute with his retro art, and this subplot (with its own thematic ties to Kingdom Come) carries the same weight as the main storyline.

If it starts to feel overstuffed, you’re not alone. There are several characters (Mr. America—cough, cough!) who feel like they are taking away time from key character development. Nevertheless, once original series artist and co-plotter Alex Ross starts painting full sequences in Book 3, things get very streamlined. As a fan of Kingdom Come, it’s rewarding to see the series revisited with such respect and a genuine point to be made. Johns and Ross bring both series to a close, making way for new legacies, worlds, and Elseworlds.

Omni Daily News

The best laid plans: I'd hoped to get Old Media Monday out to devoted readers this week, but I'm afraid I'm no match for Tom when it comes to reviewing the reviewers. If you skipped out of town last holiday weekend and should still be catching up on your book news, I offer you in its place a condensed version (and a question--is anyone not convinced that they must stop everything they're reading and start The Scarecrow?):

  • "That keening voice you hear in The Scarecrow belongs to a Michael Connelly you may not know," writes Marilyn Stasio at the New York Times. Entertainment Weekly also weighs in with a grade of  A-minus, saying that "what drive his story are not the vivid action scenes but the more internal clue-reading of his heroes as they piece together the ingenious mystery plots. The Scarecrow certainly reads like a movie — but it's one that unfolds not just in your mind's eye but primarily in your mind." But the LA Times' coverage is easily the most persuasive: "Connelly always has been frank about his admiration for Raymond Chandler. It's a high bar to set for oneself, but he comes as close to clearing it as any mystery writer of his generation."
  • Kakutani on John Updike's My Father's Tears and Endpoint: "he sticks here to what he does best: memorializing the mundane, the ordinary joys and sorrows and confusions of suburban middle class life, the quiet ticktock of human life as the 20th century unfurled...."
  • Laura Miller on Walter Kirn's memoir, Lost in the Meritocracy: "No one could be harder on the youthful Kirn than he is on himself; he has to be....You can’t dish that stuff out unless you’re willing to take most of it, at least not without making yourself hateful to your readers."
  • Jonathan Yardley on Colm Toibin's Brooklyn: a modest novel, but it has heft...and a universality that goes far beyond the specific details of Eilis's struggle." (Also "Briefly Noted" by The New Yorker: "Purging the immigrant novel of all swagger and sentimentality, Tóibín leaves us with a renewed understanding that to emigrate is to become a foreigner in two places at once.")
  • Entertainment Weekly on I'm Down by Mishna Wolff (A): "All of Wolff's experiences funnel into this buoyant memoir, which is rich in detail but never feels overembellished." 

Our book-loving President: We've enjoyed some Obama-with-book sightings in the last year, so it comes as no surprise that the President and First Lady have now stepped up to host this year's National Book Festival on September 26 [via The Daily Beast].

And just in case you forgot: Dave Eggers is pretty awesome. --Anne

Star Wars: Punch Out and Play Continues in Seattle and Finland

  Starwars

As noted previously, Star Wars: Punch Out and Play! is becoming an international event here at Omnivoracious, with five bloggers around the world sent copies and asked to report back on their adventures. The book allows you to punch out (or, er, carefully separate out) 12 iconic Star Wars characters and, as the ad copy says, create a dozen free-standing paper dolls to "decorate your home, office, or any place in need of some intergalactic inspiration and transport yourself to a galaxy far, far away."

First, there was author Corey Redekop. Now, rising star Cherie Priest and stalwart of Finnish fandom Tero Ykspetäjä have weighed in with their rather remarkable mise-en-scenes using the figures. Cherie used her cat as a prop, while Tero used an entire convention and sailing vessel. You can find Priest's post here and Tero's post here, and I've excerpted a few favorites below the cut. (There's more to come, though, with both Tero's colleague Jukka Halme, who helped with Tero's batch, and Tessa Kum at Silence Without both threatening fire and explosions for the final post in the series...)

Continue reading "Star Wars: Punch Out and Play Continues in Seattle and Finland" »

Reminder: Omnivoracious Sweepstakes II Ends Friday

Don't forget to subscribe to our daily email digest by noon tomorrow (Friday, May 29) for your chance to win a complete set of our April Significant Seven editors' picks. Current subscribers are also eligible - we wouldn't leave loyal folks out in the cold - and can visit the same page to fill out a short entry form.

For those who missed Tom's original post, here's a quick rundown of the Grand Prize set:

  • The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (our Spotlight pick). Lauren wrote: "As the pages fly by, you'll be rooting for this curious combination of Harriet the Spy and Sherlock Holmes."
  • Genesis by Bernard Beckett. Mari said: "His near-future tale feels unique, and oddly credible.... Genesis reads like a thriller to the last word, propelled by the power of ideas longing to be unleashed."
  • The Day We Lost the H-Bomb by Barbara Moran: Dave wrote: "The Day We Lost the H-Bomb explores an awakening to the realities of a nuclear age.... Cold War anxiety over the ever-reaching arm of Communism fueled massive increases in U.S. military spending, yet not enough attention was given to the dangers of an arms race until this fatal accident abroad."
  • The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton: Mari sez: "As Morton draws you through a thicket of secrets that spans generations, her story could cross into fairy tale territory if her characters weren't clothed in such complex flesh, their judgment blurred by the heady stench of emotions (envy, lust, pride, love) that furtively flourished in the glasshouse of Edwardian society."
  • In-N-Out Burger by Stacy Perman: Brad recommends: "If you've never had an In-N-Out burger, Perman's book just might inspire you to find a good reason to get yourself to Southern California and seek out an off-the-menu 3x3 with a side of Animal Style fries."
  • The Song Is You by Arthur Phillips: Said I: "Their courtship--as Julian evades a marriage split by an unbearable loss and Cait shoots single-mindedly toward stardom--is an intricately constructed pas de deux that is both surprising and convincing throughout. It's Phillips's first novel set in the present since Prague, and in its artful structure, style, and heart it's a match for that smart and charming debut."
  • Vanished Smile by R.A. Scotti: Jon wrote: "Along the way we're treated to a tour of turn-of-the-century Paris, the birth of modern forensics, and a biography of the enigmatic painting itself. To this day the mysterious theft of the painting the French call La Joconde remains unsolved--only Mona Lisa knows, and she's not talking."

Man Booker International Prize Goes to Alice Munro, Canadian Master of Stories

From a finalist lineup that included the likes of E.L. Doctorow, V.S Naipaul, and Joyce Carol Oates, Alice Munro was "totally amazed and delighted" earlier today to receive the 2009 Man Booker International Prize, news the book-loving community and her readers have greeted with approval and delight. Her win feels especially notable for the fact that she's widely considered the greatest living writer of short fiction, a genre that often gets short shrift--even her two books described as novels, Lives of Girls and Women and Who Do You Think You Are?, are series of interwoven stories. But as the Booker judges noted, Munro "brings as much depth, wisdom and precision to every story as most novelists bring to a lifetime of novels.”

Munro has already won multiples of Canada’s most prestigious literary awards (three Governor General's Awards and two Giller Prizes), but this international recognition should finally break her out of popular obscurity, as The Guardian’s Lisa Allardice enthused:

While admirers such as Margaret Atwood and A.S. Byatt have long been forceful advocates of Munro's stories, a younger generation of writers has recently joined the cult of Munro: you might expect a relative hipster like Jonathan Franzen, for example, to be more in thrall to the noisier attractions of the Big American Men, but it is Munro he calls "The Great One." And yet, until today at least, Alice Munro has remained something of a paradox: while critics and fellow authors have fallen over themselves to crown her "the greatest living short story writer", they have also formed a chorus lamenting her obscurity and lack of recognition. She is the secret everyone likes to shout about--and yet she somehow retains her secret status. As Atwood puts it,"It's as if she jumps out of a cake--Surprise!--and then has to jump out of it again, and then again."


If you haven't read Munro in a while (or ever), start with her best. Or start anywhere. All of her stories are architecturally perfect little worlds to inhabit, “deep caves paved with kitchen linoleum.” And at 77, Munro is paving still darker caves--her new collection of stories, Too Much Happiness, comes out in Canada this August, and it sounds gritty, complete with "child murders, strange sex, and a terrifying home invasion." (We'll take her word on the happiness part.)  --Mari Malcolm

Alice Munro

YA Wednesday: BEA and the Trouble With Mary Sue

Are you going to BookExpo America (the notorious BEA)? I am not, but Amy Krouse Rosenthal is, and she'll be at the Children's Book and Author Breakfast on Friday, May 29, at 8 a.m., along with Meg Cabot, Tomie de Paola, and Julie Andrews (yes, that Julie Andrews). Here's a funny preview, with tangerines:

Other potentially exciting YA/kids-related events:

Friday, 2 p.m., BEA Young Adult Editor's Buzz, with editors from Arthur A. Levine books, Disney/Hyperion, Delacorte, First Second Books, Feiwel & Friends, and Harper Collins Children's Books.

Saturday, 10:30 a.m., Cassie Clare (The Mortal Instruments series) and Scott Westerfeld (Leviathan)

Refreshrefresh Themazerunner Lipstouch Saturday, 2 p.m., YA Authors of YA Editor's buzz, which looks like it may include Laini Taylor (Lips Touch), Sarwat Chadda (The Devil's Kiss), James Dashner (The Maze Runner), Danica Novgorodoff (illustrator of Refresh, Refresh), Jill S. Alexander (The Sweatheart of Prosper County), and Adriana Trigiani (Viola in Reel Life).

For a full schedule of YA author and blogger events, visit the BEA website or see Shelf Talker's list of kids' book events.

What's a Mary Sue?
Crossover, a newish blog by Kelly Herold (Big A, Little a), kicked off with the most obvious crossover hit, Twilight. A ton of YA authors and bloggers joined in the discussion of why the series appeals to grown-ups, and children's author Kelly Fineman sparked further talk with her "Mary Sue" remark:

"What makes [the Twilight novels] work is the very Mary Sue main character, Bella Swan, who is the reader's proxy in the books. She's clumsy and awkward and whiny, yet still manages to charm all the boys, including Edward Cullen. And once she vamps out midway through Book 4, she vampires better than anyone else. She's living the dream - ordinary girl who attracts extraordinary things, and ends up being the Very Best Vampire Ever with Extra-Special Powers."
Gail Gauthier, who is not a fan of Mary Sue, responds on her blog with "How Do I Avoid Writing Mary Sue?":
If I stay away from romance, will Mary Sue characters stay away from me? If I don't write about anyone over the age of thirteen will I be safe? What if I use male main characters? Will that work?

Author Tanita Davis (Mare's War) comments:

...when I know I'm protecting a character by making her a mixture of Clark Kent and Captain Americana, I know I'm Mary Sue-ing, and I have to draw up those mental divorce papers all over again.
Blogger Liz B. (from Tea Cozy) adds:
When does my Mary Sue radar go off? When the character is "too perfect" and idealized. It doesn't mean they are perfect--just that everyone in the story sees them as so. When all the boys fall in love for no apparent reason. When there are characteristics that don't add up to a character (for example, Bella's clumsiness to make her 'normal'). When there is a "tragic backstory" that has little or nothing to do with the plot or character except to have other characters/reader learn about it, feel sorry for the person, and somehow that sorry translated into liking the person.

Quick links...
The Guardian announces their Children's Fiction Prize longlist, including Terry Pratchett's Nation and, one of the books I'm most looking forward to this year, Siobhan Dowd's Solace of the Road, which comes out in the U.S. this October. The short list will be announced in September, and the winner on October 8.

John Green goes to Australia.

Shifty author Lynn E. Hazen posts two videos on how to make a Shifty card:

Happy watching/card-making/panel-attending/reading.--Heidi

Omni Daily News

Introducing James King: Bill Warrington's Last Chance, the debut novel from writer James King, wins the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. [Amazon.com]

O Canada!
: Canadian author Alice Munro is the third writer to win the Man Booker International Prize. [Jacket Copy]

Seasonal Eats: Boston Globe cookbook reviewer T. Susan Chang presents The 10 Best Summer Cookbooks of 2009. [NPR]

--BTP

Omni Daily News

Beach Reads: New York Magazine highlights their summer reading picks. [New York Magazine]

Et Tu, Bruni?: Speculation continues whether it's a coincidence that Frank Bruni will be leaving his position as restaurant critic for the New York Times this August, the same month his memoir, Born Round: The Secret History of a Full-Time Eater, lands on bookshelves. [Publishers Weekly]

Book Deal Blues: Celebrated filmmaker John Sayles isn't having much luck trying to sell his historical novel, a "sprawling, epic tale about racism and the dawn of U.S. imperialism," to publishers. [LA Times]

--BTP

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