Feb 17, 2011

Beacon Press Book-of-the-Day: Queer Quotes edited by Teresa Theophano

Introducing a new blog series: the Beacon Press Book-of-the-Day!

This will be similar to my Houghton Mifflin Harcourt book of the day series which some of you may remember from my stint as the Children's Editorial Intern with HMH this summer (part 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5 can be found by clicking on the numbers). As the Sales & Marketing Associate for Beacon Press, it's about time I began highlighting some of the books on the Beacon list I'm learning to enjoy.

First up:

Queer Quotes: On Coming Out and Culture, Love and Lust, Politics and Pride, and Much More
edited by Teresa Theophano
Hardcover:9780807079065, $15
Paperback: 9780807079256, $10

I keep this book next to my desk and whenever I need a little pick-me-up, I flip to a random page and read a few quotes. It's never failed to make me smile, often think, and sometimes even laugh out loud.

Here is the publisher description:

Queer Quotes is a compendium of wit and wisdom from well-known historical and contemporary cultural figures. Often amusing, the quotes are also thought-provoking and have an impressive scope. Subjects range from love and gay marriage to HIV/AIDS, from gender identity to religion, and everything in between. Featuring more than 350 quotes as well as short biographies of the individuals quoted, Queer Quotes is an essential resource and an ideal gift book.

Some of the contributors include Dorothy Allison, James Baldwin, Tallulah Bankhead, Simone de Beauvoir, Truman Capote, Kate Clinton, Ellen DeGeneres, Leslie Feinberg, Liberace, Audre Lorde, Sir Ian McKellen, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Oscar Wilde.

Feb 16, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: The Pirate Captain's Daughter by Eve Bunting

Waiting on Wednesday (WoW) is a weekly meme hosted by
My first and second WoW posts were about my guilty pleasure reading - romantic (often paranormal) paperback/mass market novels. My third and fourth WoW posts were YA (young adult) titles. My fifth and sixth WoW posts were about adult literary fiction. Introducing my first Middle Grade title.

Yes, THAT Eve Bunting. The one who wrote Cheyenne Again (illustrated by Irving Toddy), the Caldecott Award-winning Smoky Night (illustrated by David Diaz), Hurry! Hurry! (illustrated by Jeff Mack) and now, a new Middle Grade reader from Sleeping Bear Press.

The Pirate Captain's Daughter by Eve Bunting
9781585365258, Sleeping Bear Press, $8.99, Pub. Date: March 2011

The Publisher's Weekly description does the book credit, addressing the book's lack of sensationalism, placing it firmly in the Middle Grade genre:

After her mother dies, 15-year-old Catherine is determined to join her father, a pirate captain, on the high seas. She romanticizes his secret life and yearns for adventure (having been cooped up for most of her life), but Catherine is in for a rude awakening. With her father's help, Catherine goes aboard the Reprisal ("The shining, sleek shape of her. The way she seemed to lean forward, headed for adventure and ports unknown," swoons Catherine) disguised as a boy. While headstrong Catherine is capable of holding her own, challenges remain: the men are coarse, she falls for William (the ship's cook), and the constant threat of being found out hangs over her head. Additionally, the creepiest pirate, Herc, is after a mysterious object her father possesses. While Bunting's story and characters may seem tame to readers who have grown up with the over-the-top portrayals of pirate life in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, the book is fast-paced and offers sufficient action, intrigue, and romance to hold interest. There are several scenes of violence, but they are not gratuitous.

Feb 12, 2011

Book Review: Nathaniel Fludd, The Unicorn's Tale by R.L.LaFevers, illustrated by Kelly Murphy

The Unicorn's Tale: Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist, Book 4
by R.L. LaFevers, illustrated by Kelly Murphy
9780547482774, $14.99, Houghton Mifflin Harcout, Pub. Date: April 2011

 In book four, Nathaniel has a lot on his mind. With the hope that his parents might still be alive somewhere, all Nate wants to do is find his traitorous cousin, Obediah Fludd, and make him tell Nate where Nate's parents are. Unfortunately, Nate's starting to learn that when you're a Beastologist (or Beastologist-in-Training), the animals come first.

Four new species of beasts are introduced in this adventure as Nate and Aunt Phil relocate a guivre, meet a faun, and save a unicorn (or two...or three...). When Obediah turns up in the most unexpected way (with the most unexpected companion), it's time for Nate to once again save the day.

But with all this travel and adventure, how will Nate ever uncover the truth about his parents? Keep reading this series to find out more about how when you're stuck, sometimes it's best to go back to the beginning.

Feb 10, 2011

Repost Book Review: The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan

Yes, I know I already blogged about this book, but it's really so perfect for this month, and I just got a hardcover copy, and I fell in love with it all over again, and so should you.

The Lover's Dictionary
by David Levithan
9780374193683, $23, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (Macmillan)

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.

Feb 9, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

Waiting on Wednesday (WoW) is a weekly meme hosted by
My first and second WoW posts were about my guilty pleasure reading - romantic (often paranormal) paperback/mass market novels. My third and fourth WoW posts were YA (young adult) titles. Now my fifth and sixth WoW posts are about adult literary fiction:

9780670021048, Viking (Penguin), $26.95, Pub. Date: May 2011 

Though Geraldine Brooks won the Pulitzer Prize for March, her imagined history Mr. March, the father in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, my favorite book of hers is actually Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague. Year of Wonders is historical fiction at its best, and you can read my review of it here. I also greatly enjoyed People of the Book, though I realized after reading it that my favorite portions of the book were the historical scenes.

Because of my love for her historical fiction, I'm particularly excited for the publication of Caleb's Crossing, due in May 2011. There are many elements similar to Year of Wonders: the year, for one (YoW takes place in 1666, CC centers around an event in 1665); the narrator for another (in both cases a woman, narrating both her own life and the piece of life very closely tied to another main character [a man, thus getting both the male & female slices-of-life from that time period]). I have high hopes Caleb's Crossing will prove to be as thought-provoking, well-researched, and richly-imagined as Year of Wonders

Here is the publisher's description:

Once again, Geraldine Brooks takes a remarkable shard of history and brings it to vivid life. In 1665, a young man from Martha's Vineyard became the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College. Upon this slender factual scaffold, Brooks has created a luminous tale of love and faith, magic and adventure.
The narrator of "Caleb's Crossing" is Bethia Mayfield, growing up in the tiny settlement of Great Harbor amid a small band of pioneers and Puritans. Restless and curious, she yearns after an education that is closed to her by her sex. As often as she can, she slips away to explore the island's glistening beaches and observe its native Wampanoag inhabitants. At twelve, she encounters Caleb, the young son of a chieftain, and the two forge a tentative secret friendship that draws each into the alien world of the other. Bethia's minister father tries to convert the Wampanoag, awakening the wrath of the tribe's shaman, against whose magic he must test his own beliefs. One of his projects becomes the education of Caleb, and a year later, Caleb is in Cambridge, studying Latin and Greek among the colonial elite. There, Bethia finds herself reluctantly indentured as a housekeeper and can closely observe Caleb's crossing of cultures.
Like Brooks's beloved narrator Anna in "Year of Wonders," Bethia proves an emotionally irresistible guide to the wilds of Martha's Vineyard and the intimate spaces of the human heart. Evocative and utterly absorbing, "Caleb's Crossing" further establishes Brooks's place as one of our most acclaimed novelists.

Read more about the book on Geraldine Brooks's website.

Book Video Round-up

I thought it was about time I shared and discussed all the book-related and reading-related videos, whether feature-length, sitcom-length, or YouTube length I've collected over the years.

No, I am not going to be rehashing all BBC-or-otherwise produced versions of Jane Austen, the Brontes, Oscar Wilde, or videos of that nature. Maybe I'll do that some other time.

I'm more interested in discussing and promoting Stranger Than Fiction, Black Books, and other short video clips to all the literary junkies out there.

Stranger Than Fiction is a 2006 feature length film starring Emma Thompson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah, and in probably his first almost-serious role, Will Ferrell. Four people's lives converge in this dramedy centering on Will Ferrell and his wristwatch.
One day, Will Ferrell, an IRS accountant, realizes his life is being omnisciently narrated. He cannot communicate with the author's voice, and so when the voice says, "Little did he know that this simple, seemingly innocuous act would result in his imminent death," Harold Frick (Will Ferrell) gets a little upset. He ends up seeking help in various ways, finally coming to Dustin Hoffman's character, a university professor who has basically built a career upon deconstructing the phrase "little did he know". Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman) advises Harold to figure out whether he's in a comedy or a tragedy, and thus try to identify the author. Enter Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson). She's a well-known reclusive author struggling with writer's block. She's also the voice narrating Harold's life. Though Harold hasn't always loved his life or lived it to the fullest, recently his life seems to be looking up: he's pursuing hobbies, spending more time with a friend/coworker, and starting to date a law school drop-out baker (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who is a sweet and spirited character (and also incredibly sexy with her half-sleeve tattoo and anarchist attitude). Harold doesn't want to die, but can there really be any other way for Karen's latest book, Death & Taxes, to end? At the end of the day, measuring the two columns side-by-side, will Harold be living in a comedy or dying in a tragedy? A must-see for all fiction fans.

My only complaint about Black Books is that it's only 18 episodes. At three seasons, six episodes a season, that's really not enough to satisfy my craving for Bernard, Fran, and Manny. Bernard Black is an Irish curmudgeon who owns a used book shop. Fran is his best friend who owns the shop next door, and Manny is an ex-accountant turned part-time bookshop employee. Besides being witty, hysterical, and wise, there are so many great bookshop moments, and at 20 minutes an episode, you can watch one just about any time for free on Hulu. Watch a intro compilation on YouTube here.

The rest of the videos are funny book-related eye-and-ear candy. Enjoy!

Portlandia: Did You Read?

Book Dominoes

Saturday Night Live's Book Ad

For anyone who's actually worked in a bookstore:

Feb 7, 2011

Insert Clever Title Here

Lots of news coming from the children's lit world today.

The venerable Brian Jacques, creator of the popular Redwall series, died over the weekend at the age of 71. The BBC has a brief article on the subject and you should also check out his official website.

I have to admit I've never read a single Redwall book. Anthropomorphised animals aren't really my thing. Yet, I recognize the great value they serve, often for that reluctant reader who is looking for a great adventure but not necessarily something that might too closely imitate their own life. The combination of epic fantasy tale with good friendships written on a level accessible by younger and older readers alike. I absolutely respect the work of Brian Jacques, and sympathize with both his family and fans.

In less solemn news, my good friend and former grad school classmate, Eliza at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art runs a Monday picture book puzzler series on the official blog, Shop Talk. Stop on by for today's puzzler; theme: hugs & kisses. How many picture books can you name based on these images?

Speaking of blogs, I've been remiss in not mentioning that my grad school cohort (class of '10 from the Simmons @ The Carle, MFA in Writing Literature for Children program) has begun a new blog of our own.
Introducing the Guinea Pig Writers!
Each month we'll be writing on a new theme. Can you guess what February's is? We all share posting responsibilities (there are 12 of us) throughout the month; mine has already gone up, and you can read that here. Hope you like the site, follow us, tweet us, Facebook friend us, and more.