Sep 30, 2010

Book Review: Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares
by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
9780375866593, Knopf (Random House), $16.99, Pub. Date: October 2010

This was my first foray into the brilliant David Levithan/Rachel Cohn author combo. Yes, I admit it, I never picked up Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist (9780375835339) or Naomi & Ely's No Kiss List (9780375844416). Clearly now I'll have to, because I unabashedly LOVED Dash & Lily.

Maybe it's because this is one of the bookiest romances I've ever read. Maybe it's because a lot of the story takes place in The Strand. Maybe it's because you get to experience all the good and all the bad of the holiday (Christmas) season, which is coming up shortly and yes, I've already listened to Christmas carols, so all you purists waiting until December 1st can just ignore that last part. Maybe it's because David Levithan and Rachel Cohn have the incredible talent of making the everyday profound and of showcasing the idealism versus reality that [should] lives in all of us.

Dash is exploring his favorite haunt, The Strand, when he spies a red moleskin notebook on a shelf. He picks it up, opens it, and reads these words:

I've left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don't, put the book back on the shelf, please.

How many times have I wished for that very thing to happen to me? Haven't we all? To find mystery and adventure and possibly love hidden away in a place that is meaningful to only us (and the 50 million other people who feel the same way, but we won't think about them right now).

Dash follows the clues, and so begins an epistolary adventure in which he and Lily communicate solely by clues in a notebook they hide all over New York, from the madhouse of Macy's and F.A.O. Schwartz in the days leading up to Christmas, to Madame Trousseau's Wax Museum, to the most well-known houses that showcase Christmas lights.

Romantic, yes? But what happens when they meet up? Will they live up to each others' expectations? Or will the person they've created in their heads be too strong for them to allow for the imperfections of the very real human standing in front of them?

Written in alternating chapters between characters & their authors, this is the perfect book to hand to any teen or tween or hell, adult, who needs a little shot of belief in the spirit of love.

Sep 28, 2010

Ampersand Foil Shirt

This should really be titled "all I want for Christmukah".


















From Inskie, the product website:

"The ampersand tee was created by Colorcubic, a multidisciplinary design studio in Portland, Oregon. Inspired by typography, it incorporates Inksie's four brand icons in the shape of Herb Lubalin's famed ampersand."

You can purchase the ampersand tee from Inksie here.
 
(Thank you to Sandy for this!)

P.S. I want this, too. -->

Sep 27, 2010

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Book of the Day: Steady Hands:Poems About Work by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, illustrated by Megan Halsey and Sean Addy

#6 in the HMH Book of the Day series:

Steady Hands: Poems About Work
by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, illustrated by Megan Halsey and Sean Addy
9780618903511, $16, Clarion

This hardcover picture book harkens back to the post I did earlier about picture books for adults (Part I is posted, Part II is coming soon). Published by Clarion Books just last year in 2009, everything about this book screams "made for an adult audience here!". From the sophisticated collage-style, often abstract artwork (not that children can't also appreciate, understand, and create this type of artwork) to the free verse, deep though poetry about various types of jobs adults have, I can't really imagine children under the age of 12-14 enjoying this book in the "Can we read that book before going to bed?" sort-of-way.

That said, not being a child any more myself (despite whatever my parents may tell me), I greatly enjoy this book and keep a copy above my desk at work. Not only is the cover illustration inspiring, but if I need some inspiration, it's fun to take a 2-minute break and read about what someone else may be doing for work right that very minute, say as a Dog Walker, Filmmaker, Personnel Administrator, or even:

Writer
Paid daydreamer
imaginary soothsayer
odd-fact researcher,
the writer
hovers like a hummingbird
by the
answering machine
computer
mailbox,
holding her breath while
scanning e-mails
listening to messages
sifting through junk mail
waiting, waiting,
forever waiting,
for the next
check
project
or call.

The artwork, in particular, is what draws me to this book, especially the displaced ISBN/barcode on the back cover. I love collage-style art, and also am a huge fan of this illustrator duo, who have numerous other picture books together. Going back to my earlier point about the "sophisticated, often abstract artwork", just to emphasize how much children can appreciate it, this duo has co-illustrated one of my favorite high concept picture book series: Trains (9780761455936, Marshall Cavendish, $6.99), Cars (9780761456162, $6.99), Airplanes (9780761453888, $14.99), Trucks (9780761453284, $6.99), and Boats (9780761455240, $17.99).

Book Review: Blameless: An Alexia Tarabotti Novel by Gail Carriger

I've decided to begin a series called  
MASS MARKET MONDAYS

I prefer to read my guilty pleasure mass markets when I travel. Having no car, traveling anywhere outside the city of Boston usually requires at least two T-lines, a bus, a train, possibly a taxi, and a different type of subway depending on what city I'm going to. In other words, hours and hours of travel, and the inevitable waiting in stations. Reading as quickly as I do, mass markets are the perfect book size (I believe that was the intent behind their creation in the first place) and topic - I can bring several of them along, put them down when I need to, and quickly become engrossed again to the point where I can ignore the smelly person sitting next to me or the baby crying three seats behind.

Blogging about them is a different matter. I'm not ashamed of what I read, but reading so many of them at one time (usually three or more to a trip), means after coming back from a weekend away, I would overrun the blog with them. I don't think that's fair, as I read loads of other things too. So, to blog about my urban fantasy romance mass market travel books, I've created MASS MARKET MONDAYS. Enjoy!

Blameless: An Alexia Tarabotti Novel
by Gail Carriger
9780316074155, $7.99, Orbit (Hachette)

Blameless is third in the Parasol Protectorate series by first-time author Gail Carriger.

You can read my review of Soulless, the first book in the series, here.
Watch a Soulless book trailer here.
To recap: in Soulless (9780316056632), the reader is introduced to Alexia Tarabotti, who is a preternatural - someone who has no soul. When she touches a supernatural being - a being with excess soul - they lose their supernatural ability while her hands are on them. She can retract the fangs from a vampire, make a werewolf human, and permanently dispel a ghost. Living in London during the reign of Queen Victoria, the dark complected, half-Italian, intelligent and educated, secret preternatural often feels stifled and maybe even a little bored with her idiotic mother, absent step-father, and two silly younger sisters. After accidentally killing a freshly-made rogue vampire who was trying to drink from her (with her incredibly handy, personalized parasol), Alexia gets mixed up with Lord Maccon, the large, shaggy, uncouth, unwed Alpha of the local London werewolf pack. Soon they are off on a supernatural London-wide adventure involving disappearing werewolves, rogue vampires, new scientific supernatural inventions, a scientific organization known as the Hypocras Club, and just maybe, a romance neither of them expected.

In book 2, Changeless (9780316074148), Alexia, now Lady Woolsey, is suddenly left alone to deal with werewolf pack politics while her husband runs off on a secret mission. Her investigations introduce new characters such as Madame Lefoux, the men's suit-wearing French woman who owns a delectable hat shop and a fully-equipped scientific laboratory, and ends with a trip to Scotland. Unfortunately, there's a traitor on board her dirigible and Alexia has quite a few narrow escapes on her trip as someone tries to kill her. She does manage to solve the mystery, and finds her wayward husband, though a surprise twist at the cliffhanger ending is very abrupt.
I didn't review book 2 because I didn't like it as much as book 1 and I don't like to write negative reviews. Yet, if you would like to read a proper review, this reviewer on Amazon has basically said everything I wanted to say, and in a very well-spoken, respectful way, so check it out.

Now, considering my disappointment with Changeless, I picked up Blameless with some trepidation. I am happy to report, I was about 70-80% satisfied with book 3. Alexia has returned from Scotland the scandal of the London season. Dismissed from her secret position on the Shadow Council of advisers to the queen, kicked out of both her husband's house and her parents' home, Alexia turns to her famous rogue vampire friend, Lord Akeldama, for answers. Unfortunately he's disappeared, leaving Alexia with a short, somewhat cryptic message: "Leave England. And beware Italians who embroider." Leaving London again with Madame Lefoux and her father's trusty butler Floote, Alexia is chased through Paris and into Italy by vampires who want to kill her. Seeking refuge with the Knights Templar turns out to be a bad idea as they alternately ignore her, use her as bait, and then kidnap her, holding her prisoner. Meanwhile, back in London, Lord Maccon is getting increasingly inebriated, leaving his second, Professor Lyall, to hold the pack together and deal with the sudden disappearance of Alexia, Lord Akeldama, and all of Lord Akeldama's drones. Luckily this is not the first time Alexia's had to keep her wits about her, and with the help of Madame Lefoux and her scientist friend, Floote, a mysterious white werewolf who keeps showing up at just the right moment, and a beefed-up parasol, Alexia's not going to stay kidnapped for long. Blameless has the strong characterization, familiar laugh-out-loud wit, and steampunk elements mixed in with history that had gone missing in book 2.
Watch the creation of the Blameless book jacket design in sped-up time here.

Book 4 is apparently called Heartless and I can only imagine what on earth that's going to be about. No pub date as of yet, but I'll keep my eyes open.

Sep 26, 2010

Writing Advice: By Writers, For Writers

A recent post on The League of Extraordinary Writers blog inspired my own post, as I began thinking over all the writing advice I've read over the past few years. This is particularly helpful to me right now as I haven't written anything other than an email or a letter to various relatives the past 3 weeks. If I'm not writing, I'm still reading, and as cleanliness is next to Godliness or something of the sort, so reading about writing should be next to actually doing it.

What a treasure trove of advice I've rediscovered!  The first advice that comes to mind is Elmore Leonard's essay for the NYTimes series "Writers on Writing". A complete archive of that column can be found here. I believe writing advice is as personal as shopping advice: if it doesn't fit your style, you're not going to pay attention to it. I want my writing to be the spare, pointed, hooptedoodle-lacking writing Elmore Leonard is encouraging, and so I take his advice. (Blogging is different, this is more like chatting to strangers.) But his advice might not fit you, which is why you should read through that archive; I know I'm planning to.

I also take the advice of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott, because even if I don't remember everything she says, that core concept is comforting - we all have to begin somewhere, and might as well take it bird (word) by bird (word). Though I read this before grad school, I believe it was suggested or required reading for a course or two, and so I enjoyed it again, along with Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft and Aspects of the Novel by E.M. Forster, books I'm not sure I would have picked up had it not been for classes Writing I & I.

Some of my favorite books on writing are actually for children, most notably Avi's A Beginning, a Muddle, and an End: The Right Way to Write Writing, illustrated by Tricia Tusa.  This book is a sequel to The End of the Beginning: Being the Adventures of a Small Snail (and an Even Smaller Ant), which, while not about writing, does make some clever commentary about the nature of books and fables. As extra prizes for the Odyssey Book Shop's annual children's writing contest last year, I had the pleasure of handing out both A Beginning, a Muddle, and an End and another book on writing for children, one about the more technical aspects, entitled Spilling Ink: A Young Writer's Handbook by Ellen Potter, Anne Mazer, and illustrated by Matt Phelan. Both present encouragement and advice for aspiring young writers.

Just at the time I began writing this post, I discovered two more books about writing I need to look through. One, How Fiction Works by James Wood, has been compared to E.M. Forster's work mentioned above, but the second is the one I'm most interested in. Off the Page: Writers Talk about Beginnings, Endings, and Everything in Between is a compilation of authors' input marketed as a "literary tell-all". Edited by Carole Burns, with an introduction by Marie Arana, authors are quoted under section titles such as "Haven't I Seen You Somewhere Before?: How Characters Come to Life", "All That Jazz: Playing with Language and Style to Suit the Story", and "Good Writers Borrow, Great Writers Steal: The Writers Whom Writers Love and Why". The list of authors includes Tobias Wolff, Colm Toibin, Art Spiegelman, Marisha Pessl, Tim Parks, Joyce Carol Oates, Walter Mosley, Alice McDermott, Andrea Levy, Jhumpa Lahiri, Edward P. Jones, E. L. Doctorow, Michael Cunningham, A. S. Byatt, Russell Banks, and Paul Auster to name a few.

What books about writing inspire you?

Sep 24, 2010

Book Review: The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan

The Lover's Dictionary
by David Levithan
9780374193683, $23, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (Macmillan), Pub. Date: January 2011

akin, adj.
We were painting by numbers,
starting with the greens. Because
that happened to be our favorite color.
And that, we figured, had to mean something.

This novel is so quietly brilliant, it's a wonder David Levithan can stand his own talent. His first book published for adults, I see no reason why this can't be enjoyed by the same teenage audience that loves his Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist (written with Rachel Cohn, 9780375835339) and Will Grayson, Will Grayson (written with John Green, 9780525421580), favorites among the other YA novels he's written.

cadence, n.
I have never lived anywhere but New York
or New England, but there are times when
I'm talking to you and I hit a Southern vowel, or
a word gets caught in a Southern truncation,
and I know it's because I'm swimming in your
cadences, that you permeate my very language.

The Lover's Dictionary is, according to Publisher's Marketplace, “an alphabetically episodic narrative that traces the ups and downs of an urban romance.” This is a truly genius way of telling a story that allows the reader to be at once an observer and a participant in this relationship. The couple is never identified as individuals by name or physical descriptions or a list of attributes. We come to know them slowly, as each definition unfolds a piece of the story and a piece of each person, and ultimately, a piece of you. There are words and definitions that make you laugh out loud, remembering a scene so similar in your own life. There are words that make you catch your breath as the ache of it settles deep within your chest.

candid, adj.
"Most times, when I'm having sex, I'd rather be reading."
This was, I admit, a strange thing to say
on a second date. I guess I was just
giving you warning.
"Most times when I'm reading," you said, "I'd rather be having sex."

Though not told in a linear fashion, there was never a point when I questioned what was happening, and though the end doesn't leave you with a typical conclusion, these characters had so seamlessly blended with my own life, my own subconscious - despite my life being nothing like theirs - I still haven't felt as if the book is really finished, because these words live inside me now. Reading it felt like taking a shot of whiskey: the initial hit of flavor - the initial joy of beginning a truly great read; the burn down your throat - the gut reaction to a deeply meaningful passage; lighting a fire in your heart - remembering what in your own life made you feel this way; and the liquid warmth sliding all the way down into your belly - enjoying how that experience is a part of you now. It gave me goosebumps at times to read a definition about love or type of lovesick behavior that I always thought (was worried about) only happened to me; but in reading whatever that particular definition was, somehow knowing there is at least one other person in the world who has felt this way too, makes me not feel so alone.

suffuse, v.
I don't like it when you use my shampoo,
because then your hair smells like me, not you. 

Especially to someone like me who collects new words as a hobby, using them to tell a story in this way was deeply meaningful. As a writer-of-sorts, I often have plot ideas, snippets for a story, a passing fancy that something might be really neat if done right and well. As a full-time reader, I constantly run the risk of reading the very brilliance I long to create. Jeanne Birdsall's The Penderwicks series was one such instance for me, and now David Levithan and The Lover's Dictionary.

yesterday, n.
You called to ask me when I was
coming home, and when I reminded you
that I wasn't coming home, you sounded
so disappointed that I decided to come home.

 Like most things in life that make you laugh and make you cry, The Lover's Dictionary is bittersweet, but you know for sure that you weren't unaffected.

Sep 23, 2010

Word of the Day: Desultory

Desultory, adj.

- lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order; disconnected; fitful
- digressing from or unconnected with the main subject; random
- passing or jumping from one thing to another, especially in a fitful way; unmethodical
- occurring in a random or incidental way; haphazard

My favorite part about these definitions? How they all begin with at least a seven-word definition, followed by a semi-colon, then a one-word definition. Why not just use the one word and be done with it?

What I Learned From My Fall Internship, Part 2

One of my recent projects has been to conduct a sales analysis of award-winning titles for the Coretta Scott King awards and the Pura Belpre awards across the three Houghton Mifflin Harcourt imprints: Houghton Mifflin, Harcourt, and Clarion.

Having some experience with sales figures from my previous career as the children's book buyer for the Odyssey Bookshop, it was useful to bring my own knowledge of the bookselling world to the sales information gathered from the publishing world. Book awards like the Newbery, the Caldecott, the Coretta Scott King, and the Pura Belpre are awarded by the American Library Association through the Association for Library Service to Children. When looking at sales figures, in order to understand them, one must have some understanding of the influence and intersection of three separate communities: the library market, the publishing market, and the bookselling market.

Publishers publish a book, doing all the first-tier work: editing, creating an attractive package, sales and marketing promotion and events, etc. Booksellers do the second tier work: showcasing the books available for purchase in-store, on websites, hosting author events, writing reviews, furthering the sales and promotion begun by the publishers, and also often working with schools to partner on making the book available for educational purposes. Libraries are the third tier: making the book available to a non-book-buying audience, also holding author and book events, also furthering the publisher promotion, but then increasing the school/education element, as well as often discussing the book in a more academic context. All three tiers have their own wide reaching, and often overlapping, spheres of influence, and all three tiers will often evaluate the book within the children's literature canon as a whole.

How is this reflected in sales? Well, remember Venn diagrams? Same concept: the book wants to have as much of the publishing, library, and bookselling market overlap as possible. But, because these are three separate entities, there's no guarantee they're all going to agree. Obviously the publisher is going to be gung-ho about their books, but each book receives a different amount of promotion. Then, the ALA might love a book and honor it with an award, but it turns out to be a book more suited for the library (read: book-borrowing) market, rather than flying off the book store shelves. Conversely, booksellers may love a book and elevate it to a higher sales status than one afforded by publishing promotion, but that still doesn't guarantee it a spot on the ALA best list - or it could, as with the case of recent Newbery winner When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.

Now, the neatest part about this project was that there were several books on my list that had been published prior to 1990 (as you might imagine). Specifically two titles - one published in 1970, another in 1976 - did not have sales information available through any HMH computer database. This is because these titles are currently out-of-print, meaning though they won awards, they fell into that category of library appreciation, not bookselling appreciation, and so have fallen out of popularity. The tricky part is that they went out-of-print before the time when records began being recorded in a computer database. This means I got the help of a very nice gentleman in the sales department who kindly looked up and photocopied for me the original recipe card sales records of these books, hand entered, from about 1970-1981 (for the two books combined).

How cool is that?

I got to sit here, holding these photocopies of ancient (okay, I know the 1970s was not an ancient time) records, adding up the numbers by hand (okay, on the calculator on my computer), because they were not in a computer database. Before all of you who remember the '70s start lambasting me for making fun of something 40 years old, the point is I LOVE moments like this, when I feel so connected to a history and a time before the current digital age. (I wish I could scan the photocopy of the card to show, but that would involve revealing sales figures and I don't want to risk that.) So, despite my slight exaggeration in tone, I'm actually very appreciative and excited that I had this experience today.

Sep 22, 2010

Nom de Plume...

...a.k.a. pen name a.k.a. pseudonym a.k.a. literary double a.k.a. alias.

Do not be concerned, I am not talking about this Halloween costume supply shop.

I'm talking about the custom of a person who was born with one name adopting another (or several other) names under which to publish their books.

This was, and still is, a common practice among writers for various reasons. At one time (think at least two hundred years ago), female authors often used male pen names, fearing no one would read their books if they knew the author was a woman. In more contemporary times, authors who are established in one genre and want to break into another genre, may use a pen name so readers don't make a judgment based on what they've previously written. 

AbeBooks has written a great post on their website, showcasing the books of many talented writers that wrote under a name different from their original. Of course they mention the classics like Mark Twain (actually Samuel Langhorne Clemens), and for me, Nora Roberts, who is also well-known for writing as J.D. Robb.

I remember how shocking it was for me to find out Nora Roberts and J.D. Robb were the same person. (Okay, shocking may have been an overstatement, but I was surprised.) Do you remember any "big reveals" in your life?


Some of the authors who immediately come to mind (who use pen names) are children's book authors like R.L. LaFevers (real first name - Robin) and E. Lockhart (the E stands for Emily, but her real last name is Jenkins). I don't know why R.L. LaFevers writes under that name, but E. Lockhart writes on her website:  

"What does E stand for? What’s your real name? And why do you go by E?
E. stands for Emily, and I use it on my teen books because I write other kinds of books using my whole, legal name. My dad calls me E., and I always liked it."

As we new writers look into getting published, I think it's a legitimate question to ask ourselves - do we want to write under our own legal names or not? If you decide you do, but can't decide on a name, this handy dandy Pen Name Generator website will create one for you.

Mine is apparently Cindy Capleton. What's yours?

Sep 21, 2010

What I Learned From My Fall Internship, Part 1

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Let me tell ya - it works!

After literally months of job searching, cover letter-writing, resume-restructuring, informational interviews, actual job interviews, nail biting, and losing sleep, I have an announcement to make:


As of Monday, October 4, 2010, I will be the new Sales Assistant/Receptionist for Beacon Press, located on Beacon Hill, in Boston, MA.

I can hardly believe my good fortune. Not only is Beacon Press located in one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Boston, but the company itself is such an inspirational institution. Associated with the Universal Unitarian Association, Beacon Press is known for publishing outstanding works of poetry (Mary Oliver is published by Beacon), liberal and thought-provoking works of adult fiction and non-fiction, and most recently some YA graphic novels.

In my position as Sales Assistant/Receptionist, I will be at the front desk, serving as a representative of both Beacon Press and the UUA, meeting & greeting Beacon Press visitors, answering phone and email inquiries, and other sundry receptionist duties. I will also be assisting with the website, online marketing, and coordinating with organizations hosting author events with Beacon Press authors. I'm sure there will be other duties I can speak about later as I settle into the position and find out what they are.

But Rebecca, some of you might be gasping, this isn't editorial work, nor is it related to children's literature!

Good point, but this is an opportunity to work within a small, independent, well-respected publishing company in Boston. This is obviously an entry-level position, and as I have only internship experience within the publishing industry as a whole, I am thrilled to gain full-time employment in the industry. I can learn so much about various aspects of publishing I've never experienced, while also keeping my eyes open for a future position in editorial work. Everyone has to start somewhere, and I am so lucky my publishing career has begun at Houghton Mifflin and now at Beacon Press.

Picturebooks for Adults, Part I

Going through the slush pile a few weeks ago, I came across an artist who layers photographs and clipart pieces to create ethereal digital collage artwork. I wish I could show them to you, but unfortunately the artist doesn't have a website. While the project wasn't right for Houghton Mifflin, the illustrations were beautiful, and for me, immediately brought to mind the song used in this video:


(The song is Strange Love by Little Annie, and it's eerie, and a little weird, and I love it. If you want to hear the whole song, click here, though I have to warn you that the typewritten lyrics on the YouTube video are a little off.)

I could envision full-color, full-bleed pictures adding their surreal quality to the already haunting lyrics. Of course, with the heavy, sexy lyrics and accompanying illustrations, this picture book is more appropriate for adults than children, and that thought made me consider the concept of picture books intended for adults as a whole.

The picture book that immediately came to mind was Griffin and Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence (9780877017882, $19.95, Chronicle) by Nick Bantock. There are four books in this series that is a mysterious love story between two people named Griffin and Sabine, spanning continents and time continuums. Each book contains gorgeous hand-designed postcards and letters between the two lovers as they unravel the mystery of their romantic communication. Perfect for fans of The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, though not quite as dark.

Speaking of Audrey Niffenegger, she has created several picture books for adults: The Adventuress (9780810970526, $27.95, Abrams), The Night Bookmobile (9780810996175, $19.95, Abrams), and The Three Incestuous Sisters (9780810959279, $27.95, Abrams). In keeping with the classic Audrey Niffenegger style, these picture books are dark and fantastical while exploring complex emotions of primarily female characters.

Not all picture books intended for adults are as serious as these. Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, had quite the naughty side. In addition to writing beloved children's books, Dr. Seuss was also a political cartoonist during World War II; his cartoons have been collected in Dr. Seuss Goes to War (9781565847040, $19.95, Perseus). He also wrote several picture books that are much more adult-themed in nature, including You're Only Old Once!: A Book for Obsolete Children (9780394551906, $17.99, Random House), detailing the hilarious medical checkup one of a certain age might go through, and Seven Lady Godivas: The True Facts Concerning History's Barest Family (out-of-print), a book featuring seven naked ladies romping through tongue-in-cheek explanations of common idioms. Then, of course, there are other Dr. Seuss classics that are favorites to give to adults upon certain graduations and employment transitions, such as Oh, the Places You'll Go! (9780679805274, $17.99, Random House).

Other children's books are often given between adults for various holidays. Two of my favorites make perfect Valentine's Day presents for both friends and loved ones: I Like You by Sandol Stoddard Warburg, illustrated by Jacqueline Chwast (9780395071762, $6.95, Houghton Mifflin) and A Friend is Someone Who Likes You by Joan Walsh Anglund (9780152296780, $9.95, Houghton Mifflin). Both of these offer adorable illustrations accompanying sweet, child-like text celebrating like, love, and friendship. Though those were published as children's books, their full value is understood more by adults, I think, who can better appreciate the nuances of both text and illustration.

This is true for many other children's picture books, whose humor, while appealing to children, is of a particularly cheeky, sarcastic, implied, or ironic nature that is greatly enjoyed by adults. Some of my personal favorites catering to the dual audience are the Knuffle Bunny trilogy, the Pigeon books, and the Elephant & Piggie series created by Mo Willems. A classic of this genre is The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales (9780670844876, $17.99, Viking/Penguin), hilarious retellings of classic fairy tales by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith. Lane Smith is quite the connoisseur of this type of work, both by discussing children's books in an adult way on his blog Curious Pages, and by creating books of this nature, such as the recent release It's a Book (9781596436060, $12.99, Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan), a book about the introduction of a hard copy book in a digital age.

It's a Book walks that fine line between being really intended for an adult audience but being published in a children's market. There are many picture books published in this vein, such as All My Friends Are Dead (thanks to A. Neff for this!) by Avery Monsen and Jory John (9780811874557, $9.95, Chronicle), just published in June, about all the people, animals, and objects who have deceased friends. I can't think of a single friend who wouldn't snort with laughter at this snarky book.

What are some of your favorite picture books?

Stay tuned for Part II!

Sep 19, 2010

Word of the Day: Fug

Legit, non-slang word here!

Fug, n.

1. Stale air, especially the humid, warm, ill-smelling air of a crowded room
2. Hot or suffocating atmosphere

Sep 18, 2010

Word of the Day: Bally

Last slang word for a while, I promise, but I'd never read this one before.

Bally
British slang

1. damned
2. euphemism for the word bloody, as in "bloody hell"

Book Review: ABC is for Circus by Patrick Hruby

ABC is for Circus
by Patrick Hruby
9781934429617, Ammo Books, $14.95, Pub. Date: November 2010

Whimsical. Bright. Colorful. Creative. A must-have for a baby or design library.

I realize I haven't reviewed any board books as a stand-alone post,  a gross oversight I'm going to correct beginning with my latest find. For those who stopped by the Odyssey Book Shop while I was Children's Department Manager there, you might have noticed my taste in design work similar to this. Board books featuring the work of Charley Harper and Dwell Studio received front-and-center placement on the board book shelves, while Bruno Munari's ABC picture book was featured on both the picture book shelf and in my own personal library. Now I can add the up-and-coming Patrick Hruby to my list of favorite designers in this vein.

While his artistic influences are clear, Hruby's illustrations in ABC is for Circus are unique, inspired, and delightfully cheerful with a mix of colors and shapes that are both riotous and carefully constructed. I love the clean, crisp geometric shapes among the bursts of color, as well as his use of color against black and white silhouettes. The subject matter is charming, too! Who wouldn't love learning "A is for Acrobats" and "B is for Big Top," but you'll also want to pay attention to "H is for Horses" as they're horses on the carousel (which, believe it or not, is not featured for the letter "C"). I think my favorite is "N is for Nighttime" because I love the switch of a colorful starry background with the Ferris Wheel silhouette layered on top.

Run to your nearest independent bookstore to grab your copy in late October/early November.

To find out more about Patrick Hruby, visit his website here.
Check out ABC is for Circus at the Ammo Books website.
Befriend Patrick Hruby Illustration on Facebook.
Read a great review of his artwork in general on My Love For You Is A Stampede of Horses.

Thank you to NetGalley for letting me preview this book!

Sep 17, 2010

Word of the Day: Juggernaut

Juggernaut, n.
(not to be confused with the comic book character published by Marvel Comics)
(also not to be confused with the 1974 movie, Juggernaut, starring, of all people, Richard Harris, Omar Sharif, and Anthony Hopkins)
(though both of these are based on definition #1)

1. any large, overpowering, destructive force or object
2. anything requiring blind devotion or cruel sacrifice

Now, I knew definition #1 from all those steampunk novels being published lately, but it was definition #2 I needed and was surprised by.

Whenever I think of a juggernaut, I think of this image of a Clanker (known as the Cyklop Stormwalker) from Scott Westerfeld's book Leviathan (amazing book! read about it here!), drawn by incredible artist Keith Thompson.

Book Blogger Hop!

Book Blogger Hop

This is only my second Book Blogger Hop for my adult book review blog. This Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Crazy-for-Books, discovered (by me) through Presenting Lenore - thanks to both these blog/gers for providing a great way to meet new blog/gers!

To see the amazing blogs I discovered previously, visit my first hop.

As this is Book Blogger Appreciation Week, as part of the Hop, I will be sharing my "favorite book bloggers and why [I] love them".

I, of course, have to begin with Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, commonly known as Seven Imp, a book blog about children's books that is (if I may give my humble opinion) the preeminent children's book world blog. Interviews, artwork, children's book world discussions, this blog is a treasure trove of goodies waiting to be explored almost every day. Also, personally, they're named after a Lewis Carroll Alice in Wonderland quote, so how can I not love that?

a thousand Books with Quotes is another blog I look up often, as I appreciate the sampling of quotes from each book with the general synopsis. Better than any "look inside!" preview, it whets the appetite even more to find out what those quotes are about and where they fit in to the overall plot.

Last, but not least, As the Crowe Flies and Reads by my friend and former co-worker Ms. Emily Crowe is a fabulous read-and-travel-log. Sharing informed opinions, asking critical question, reviewing great books, and showcasing incredible photography and travel stories, this is one of my favorite blogs whether I'm looking for a literary book recommendation or my next dream vacation.

Blogs I have discovered today through the Hop include:

1. Pen and Paper, who gave me a great idea for a post about a Shelf of Awesome, coming soon, I hope!
2. Blkosiner's Book Blog hosted the original Shelf of Awesome idea.
3. A Trillian Books has an adorable blog design and great YA and adult book reviews.

4. For What It's Worth also has a stylish blog design and combines book reviews with music reviews - how great is that? I love discovering both!

As always, check 'em out!

Also just discovered this Follow My Book Blog Friday:


Hosted by Parajunkee, this is very similar to the Book Blogger Hop mentioned above. Today they are featuring Bailey of IB Book Blogging, and the question is: Do you read YA or stick with adult?

Both, of course! (Of course for me, anyway.) But this blog is for my children's/YA book review-related posts only. My adult book reviews can be found on Afterthoughts for Adults.

Thanks to Bloggin' 'Bout Books for turning me on to this!

Book Blogger Hop!

Book Blogger Hop
This is my third Book Blogger Hop, hosted by Crazy-for-Books, discovered (by me) through Presenting Lenore - thanks to both these blog/gers for providing a great way to meet new blog/gers!

To see the amazing blogs I discovered previously, visit my first Hop and my second Hop.

As this is Book Blogger Appreciation Week, as part of the Hop, I will be sharing my "favorite book bloggers and why [I] love them".

I, of course, have to begin with Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, commonly known as Seven Imp, a book blog about children's books that is (if I may give my humble opinion) the preeminent children's book world blog. Interviews, artwork, children's book world discussions, this blog is a treasure trove of goodies waiting to be explored almost every day. Also, personally, they're named after a Lewis Carroll Alice in Wonderland quote, so how can I not love that?

a thousand Books with Quotes is another blog I look up often, as I appreciate the sampling of quotes from each book with the general synopsis. Better than any "look inside!" preview, it whets the appetite even more to find out what those quotes are about and where they fit in to the overall plot.

Last, but not least, As the Crowe Flies and Reads by my friend and former co-worker Ms. Emily Crowe is a fabulous read-and-travel-log. Sharing informed opinions, asking critical question, reviewing great books, and showcasing incredible photography and travel stories, this is one of my favorite blogs whether I'm looking for a literary book recommendation or my next dream vacation.

Blogs I have discovered today through the Hop include:

1. Pen and Paper, who gave me a great idea for a post about a Shelf of Awesome, coming soon, I hope!
2. Blkosiner's Book Blog hosted the original Shelf of Awesome idea.
3. A Trillian Books has an adorable blog design and great YA and adult book reviews.



4. For What It's Worth also has a stylish blog design and combines book reviews with music reviews - how great is that? I love discovering both!

As always, check 'em out!

Also just discovered this Follow My Book Blog Friday:





Hosted by Parajunkee, this is very similar to the Book Blogger Hop mentioned above. Today they are featuring Bailey of IB Book Blogging, and the question is: Do you read YA or stick with adult?

Both, of course! (Of course for me, anyway.) But this blog is for my children's/YA book review-related posts only. My adult book reviews can be found on Afterthoughts for Adults.

Thanks to Bloggin' 'Bout Books for turning me on to this!

Sep 16, 2010

Word of the Day: Spruik

Continuing to add to my collection of slang words from other English-speaking countries.

Spruik, v.
Australian slang

1. to make or give an elaborate speech
2. to speak in public like a used car salesman

Sep 15, 2010

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Book of the Day: I Ain't Gonna Paint No More! by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by David Catrow

#5 in the HMH Book of the Day series:

I Ain't Gonna Paint No More!
by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by David Catrow
9780152024888, $16

Despite not knowing the tune to the song "It Ain't Gonna Rain No More," the new lyrics stand on their own as very funny, lively, interactive text, whether you're literally painting or just reading and singing along. A little boy paints all over his house - the walls, the curtains, the ceiling, the floor - so his mother forbids him to paint anymore. The boy gets around this by painting himself while singing this song, with such lyrics as, "Guess there ain't no harm if I paint my...[kids guess as you flip the page] ARM! Now I ain't gonna paint no more." Kids can mime painting themselves while dancing around and signing this song.

If you're reading this at an activity-based storytime, you can have the kids draw an outline of themselves, and then paint in the body like the illustrations in the book. The illustrations are black-and-white outlines with shading; as the little boy paints himself, each body part becomes a riotous mix of colors, shapes, styles, and images. This illustration style really appeals to me, and if it does to you, too, check out Super-Completely and Totally the Messiest by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser, one of my favorites.

Sep 8, 2010

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Book of the Day: Sisters by David McPhail

#4 in the HMH Book of the Day series:

Sisters
by David McPhail
9780152046590, $9.99

Originally published in 1984, this delightful little book (apparently I have a preference for books with a small trim size) is perfect for the care package I'm sending to my sister at college. Published with a new jacket image and color illustrations for the first time in 2003, each page exhibits spot illustrations of romping sisters, demonstrating how they are alike and how they are not. The most important thing, of course, is that no matter how different they may be, they both love each other a lot. Sweet without becoming saccharine.

Waiting on Wednesday: Guilty Pleasures

This post comes to you via Erika Breathes Books and Breaking the Spine. "Waiting on Wednesday" is a weekly meme where you post upcoming titles you're eagerly anticipating.

I'm disturbingly behind in my book blogging; I blame that on all the traveling I've been doing lately, so please forgive me. Something else to blame on my travels - my guilty pleasure reading is disproportionately higher than my non-guilty pleasure reading. So what does this mean I'm looking forward to? These two:


Prince Charming Doesn't Live Here
by Christine Warren
9780312947941, $7.99, St. Martin's Press (MPS), Pub. Date: November 2010

Publisher's description:

Danice Carter is not one for glass slippers. A stilettos-wearing lawyer at one of Manhattan's most elite establishments, Danice has a very strong grip on reality. So when she's asked by one the firm's founding partners to take on a personal case, Danice knows she's in for the opportunity of a lifetime. All she has to do is convince her top boss's granddaughter, Rosemary, to file a paternity suit. Sounds simple enough...until Danice arrives at Rosemary's home and is pounced on by a handsome stranger.

Private investigator McIntyre Callahan's was only following his powerful client's orders: Find Rosemary--"at all costs." Instead, he's found a super-hot lawyer prowling around looking for answers he can't give. The half-human, half-Fae Mac tries to warn Danice that she's way in over her head--that Rosemary may roam among The Others, and may have dangerous ties to the Unseelie Court--but she won't be deterred. Even if that means following Mac to the ends of the earth to find Rosemary...or surrendering to his supernatural powers of temptation...until death do they part.
Happy Ever After (Bride Quartet #4) 
by Nora Roberts
9780425236758, $16, Berkeley (Penguin), Pub. Date: November 2010 

Publisher Description:
As the public face of Vows wedding planning company, Parker Brown has an uncanny knack for fulfilling every bride's vision. She just can't see where her own life is headed. Mechanic Malcomb Kavanaugh loves figuring out how things work, and Parker is no exception. Parker's business risks have always paid off, but now she'll have to take the chance of a lifetime with her heart. 

Looks like late October/early November is going to be a busy time for me!

Ampersand Carrying Case

Print found here.
(Thanks, Mattie)

Sep 7, 2010

Word of the Day: Swot

This is one of my new favorite words. I love learning new slang expressions, especially if they aren't American English. It sounds so pompous when I use them in my head in a fake accent; I can't help but laugh.

Swot, n.
British Slang

1. A student who studies assiduously, especially to the exclusion of other activities or interests
2. Grind

Possible example: "Your sister's a right swot, what?" 

Sep 6, 2010

Sep 3, 2010

Word of the Day: Hyperpolyglot

Hyperpolyglot

A person who is able to speak six or more languages.

I honestly think Europeans have an advantage in reaching this status. My six years of high school/college French don't seem so super (imagine that in a French accent) right now.

Sep 2, 2010

What I Learned From My Summer Internship, Part 3

Good news on the summer internship front: It has now been extended into a fall internship. Hooray!

Beginning today, for the next 10 weeks (or until I find a full-time position), I will remain the Children's Editorial Intern, now working directly with Kate O'Sullivan, Senior Editor at Houghton Mifflin, as well as with other HMH children's editors, including Margaret Raymo, Ann Rider, Erica Zappy, and editorial assistant Christine Krones. I will continue to read manuscripts and write reader reports, make my way through slush piles, write decline letters, and in general learn more about the Houghton Mifflin way of children's publishing.

Subsequent postings on my experiences will be entitled "What I Learned From My Fall Internship". Also, I hope to continue posting (albeit sporadically) the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Book of the Day. Lastly, check out Afterfonts..., my blog dealing with things typographical- and word-related, where I sometimes post the new vocabulary words I've learned from all my reading. Occasionally, I also get the urge to make words up, like the word hippoltergeist, a word that came about when I somehow got the words hyperpolyglot and poltergeist mashed together in my head. A fellow intern and I decided hippoltergeist should be defined in this way:

hippoltergeist, n.

-the spirit of a deceased hippopotamus that wreaks havoc on family homes, mainly in the children's bedrooms, though not in a malicious way

Word of the Day: Nuncheon vs. Luncheon

Apparently the word "luncheon" wasn't enough - I've just discovered the word "nuncheon" is legitimate, too! I'm becoming a hobbit, collecting words that describe mealtimes.

Nuncheon

Slight refreshment, originally taken in the afternoon

Luncheon

A formal lunch, such as one held in connection with a meeting or convention of some kind

(Image is Luncheon of the Boating Party by Renoir)