With Mother's Day coming up this weekend, we know that many of you are searching for a special gift to share with your mom. And since there are few better treats for a mom than the opportunity to read a few good books with their children, we've put together a list of our favorite new picture books that celebrate mothers of all kinds, from soldier moms to squirrel moms. Read about two of them here, and then check out the whole feature to read the rest.
Reviews by Robin Smith
Brayden Bunny loves his mom but bristles at some of her rules. When she lets him know it's time to get out of bed, he wishes aloud that he could go and live with his friends. His mother overhears, and soon Brayden tries living at a number of his friends’ houses. Missy Mouse’s house is fun—but messy. The Badger family smells of unwashed badgers. The Squirrel family lives so high up that Brayden instantly knows it will not work out. He loves being with Auntie Grace, but still . . . something is not right. What is missing?
More sophisticated, but no less loving, is Sean Qualls’ treatment of Langston Hughes’ poem Lullaby (For a Black Mother). Collage and watercolor play well together here, inviting little ones to sleep while introducing them to the poetry of Langston Hughes. Qualls’ palette is calm and filled with overlapping circles, mirroring the repeating nature of the poem itself. The mother is front and center, wearing her lace dress, collaged with words from books. She is always looking right at her beloved diaper-clad baby, which is just where children expect their mother's gaze to fall. I especially loved the winding musical notes with the chubby baby singing in delight. The repeating words, displayed in a pleasing, stylized large font, will invite older brothers and sisters to read right along with baby—always a plus!
A few years ago, YA lit fans were calling for more sci-fi, and it's safe to say that the genre answered. With YA's built-in fanbase for apocalyptic thrillers, the opportunities were endless: zombies, contagions, aliens, interplanetary romances and doomsdays that can be thwarted only by 16-year-olds.
Characters in high-action teen lit are right at home a hundred years in the future on Mars (Losers in Space, Black Hole Sun), surviving on space stations (Glow, Mothership), waking from stasis to discover a strange new future world (Across the Universe, A Long, Long Sleep) and thwarting dominate species (The Lunar Chronicles).
But this summer, it gets personal.
YA sci-fi comes to the home front as alien invasions sweep this summer's crop of teen lit. Naturally, many are set post-invasion, because honestly, YA dystopia will never die.
Here are a few of the big ones:
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (Putnam, 5/7)
Aliens quickly and mercilessly destroy the majority of the human race in attacks called "Waves." The few survivors include Cassie, who runs along an abandoned highway in search of her missing brother, completely unaware that the aliens' most terrifying strike is yet to come. Think The Host, only much better. Read our review from the May issue.
Icons by Margaret Stohl (Little, Brown, 5/7)
The aliens in this one barely show their faces—but that's what makes them creepy. The survivors of this post-alien invasion world are so scared of their overlords that they perpetuate the aliens' horrors willfully. Four teens with a special immunity to the aliens are Earth's only hope. Fans of Stohl's Beautiful Creatures series will enjoy this one.
In the After by Demetria Lunetta (HarperTeen, 6/25)
Amy and a toddler she calls "Baby" survive after aliens invade Earth and kill almost all of the population. But when Amy and Baby are miraculously rescued, everything is not as it seems, and she begins to discover the truth behind "Them."
Neptune's Tears by Susan Waggoner (Holt, 6/25)
Call this one an alien invasion of the heart. Set in London in the year 2218, an empath named Zee falls in love with David, a member of a mysterious alien race. Sure, there's some fighting, but it's mostly fighting for their love. An alien invasion tale for the romantic set.
And one more to look forward to: The fourth book in Pittacus Lore's I Am Number Four series, The Fall of Five, comes out on August 27.
Are you a fan of YA sci-fi? Are you excited for the upcoming thrilling alien reads?
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
St. Martin's Griffin • $18.99 • ISBN 9781250012579
Published February 26, 2013
Ages 13 and up
Pretty much every YA novel that comes out these days has at least some element of romance. With all those twitterpated hormones in teen readers, it's practically a requirement for YA characters to find their soulmate at 16. There is no growing up with typical fictional true love: It is eternal and halting, with ever after more a natural progression than a rare gift.
But it rarely works like that, doesn't it? That's what makes young love such an incredible thing. Its intensity is nearly impossible to maintain.
That's why I found Eleanor & Park so special. Neither character really believes in ever after. They do, however, get to experience every surprising moment of young love, every second of anticipation as they fall for each other. Rowell's new book for teens is one of my favorite depictions of teenage love, and adult readers will find it to be a wrenching, wonderful reminder of their own first loves.
Keep an eye out for my interview with the author in the March issue of BookPage! And read on for an excerpt from one of my favorite parts, when Eleanor and Park hold hands for the first time. From Park's perspective:
Holding Eleanor's hand was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat. Like holding something complete, and completely alive.
As soon as he touched her, he wondered how he'd gone this long without doing it. He rubbed his thumb through her palm and up her fingers, and was aware of her every breath.
Park had held hands with girls before. Girls at Skateland. A girl at the ninth-grade dance last year. (They'd kissed while they waited for her dad to pick them up.) He'd even held Tina's hand, back when they "went" together in the sixth grade.
And always before, it had been fine. Not much different from holding Josh's hand when they were little kids crossing the street. Or holding his grandma's hand when she took him to church. Maybe a little sweatier, a little more awkward.
When he'd kissed a girl last year, with his mouth dry and his eyes mostly open, Park had wondered if maybe there was something wrong with him.
He'd even wondered—seriously, while he was kissing her, he'd wondered this—whether he might be gay. Except he didn't feel like kissing any guys either. And if he thought about She-Hulk or Storm (instead of this girl, Dawn) the kissing got a lot better.
Maybe I'm not attracted to real girls, he'd thought at the time. Maybe I'm some sort of perverted cartoon-sexual.
Or maybe, he thought now, he just didn't recognize all those other girls. The way a computer will spit out a disk if it doesn't recognize the formatting.
When he touched Eleanor's hand, he recognized her. He knew.
Do you make room on your TBR list for excellent YA reads? Will you check this one out?
My husband can name all 44 U.S. presidents (without cheating)—a feat that never ceases to amaze me, especially when he works his way through Hayes-Garfield-Arthur-Cleveland. The late 19th century stumps me every time. So I'm spending this President's Day brushing up on the "Oval Office All-Stars" with an informative little book from Kingfisher, Basher History: U.S. Presidents.
Each president gets a two-page spread that includes a list of his three top achievements, a first-person description of his tenure ("I started out bright-eyed and bushy-tailed" says James K. Polk) and a colorful portrait. The illustrations are by English artist and designer Simon Basher, who gives these somber old guys something of a Hello Kitty look. Grover Cleveland is shown with a baby carriage and a halo (he was known as an honest guy and is the only president to have a baby born while he was in the White House) while John F. Kennedy is surrounded by tiny, colorful nuclear warheads.
Though the book is aimed at kids 10 and up, those of us on the far, far end of that age range will find many items of interest in Dan Green's clever text. Who knew (besides my husband) that James Monroe is the only president to have a foreign capital named after him or that Calvin Coolidge is the only president to have a pet raccoon?
One of our favorite parts of the book is a teaser on the cover that reads "2012 Election Winner Inside!" For those of you who hadn't heard (spoiler alert!) Barack Obama was re-elected and is pictured wearing a lei of Hawaiian flowers and clutching an economic chart. I'll use those as mnemonic clues when I practice naming the presidents for our next family duel.
Valentine's Day, Schmalentine's Day. For fans of the Castor Chronicles, today has little to with real love and much more to do with paranormal YA romance Beautiful Creatures. Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's Southern Gothic series were blockbuster novels in their own right, but today, Beautiful Creatures heads to the big screen.
Reviews of the film are already rolling in, with plenty of comparisons to Twilight (both good and bad). EW calls it "'Twilight' with the sexes reversed," and Variety calls it "a tween-friendly 'True Blood.'"
However, the film's faithfulness to the book may not be what fans hoped for. According to the Boston Globe, "Sometimes it doesn’t pay to read the book. Based on the whimpers of the young women coming out of a preview screening, 'Beautiful Creatures,' the movie, isn’t nearly faithful enough to 'Beautiful Creatures,' the novel."
Oh, well. Emma Thompson's in it. That must count for something.
Will you spend your Valentine's Day cozied up in a theater with this all-star cast?
Last night, BookPage had the pleasure of attending the Penguin launch party for Out of the Easy, the second novel from best-selling author Ruta Sepetys! Out of the Easy hits bookstores next Tuesday, February 12.
Out of the Easy is the story of Josie Moraine, the daughter of a prostitute, who dreams of changing her stars and one day leaving the French Quarter of New Orleans for college—but a mysterious murder threatens her plans. Our reviewer wrote of Out of the Easy:
"Out of the Easy has a mystery at its center, but in many ways it’s a book about family and how the ones you’re born to aren’t necessarily your true tribe. Rough-edged and glamorous by turns, this is a wild ride worth taking."
Sepetys shared with us some fascinating (and dangerous!) stories from her research visits to New Orleans, including a trip to a legendary brothel. An upcoming edition of our Children's Corner e-newsletter will include a Q&A with Sepetys, so if you aren't already receiving our children's books e-newsletter, sign up here!
As fun as it was to chat with Sepetys, it was also wonderful to hear praise for the young adult genre as a whole. Penguin shared some heartening statistics about several YA favorites, including John Green's The Fault in Our Stars and Sepetys' first book, Between Shades of Gray.
The Fault in Our Stars has spent a whole year on the New York Times bestseller list, and it was named Time magazine's Best Book of the Year—not just in children's, but in all books. Between Shades of Gray spent 16 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and is quickly becoming required reading for high school students around the world.
Are you excited about Out of the Easy?
In our office we discuss and anticipate the announcement of the Newbery, Caldecott and Printz Awards with passion and glee—and let's just say that this morning there was a fair bit of squealing when the ALA named this year's recipients.
Perhaps most of all, we are thrilled that Jon Klassen was awarded the Caldecott Award for This Is Not My Hat, the story of a big fish in pursuit of a tiny thief. For the October 2012 issue of BookPage, Klassen hand-illustrated a Q&A for us. We loved the result (and of course we loved the book itself!):
We are also tickled that Katherine Applegate won the Newbery Award for The One and Only Ivan, which we reviewed in January 2012. Reviewer Keven Delecki praised this "brave, moving story" about the animals who live at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall.
The Printz Award went to In Darkness by Nick Lake, which BookPage reviewer Kimberly Giarrantano described as "an incredible novel." It's a harrowing and compelling story about a teen boy in the aftermath of the 2010 Haitian earthquake.
For more on these award-winning books—and other fantastic picks for young readers—subscribe to Children's Corner, our bimonthly e-newsletter. The next edition goes out Wednesday and will feature some very special interviews. (Hint, hint.)
And without further ado, here is a (partial) list of the 2013 Youth Media Award winners. Find the full list here, and click the links below to read coverage in BookPage.
2013 NEWBERY AWARD
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (HarperCollins)
2013 CALDECOTT AWARD
This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen (Candlewick)
2013 PRINTZ AWARD
In Darkness by Nick Lake (Bloomsbury)
For even more recommendations for fantastic children's and teen books, see our list of the Best Children's Books for 2012.
John Green's affecting The Fault in Our Stars has received nonstop attention since in publication in January of 2012—and even before. It was a bestseller on Amazon and Barnes & Noble six months prior to publication, and its popularity has yet to lose momentum. It was a BookPage Best Children's Book of 2012, #5 on the Readers' Choice list of the Best Books of 2012 and called "damn near genius" by Time magazine.
Green's fourth book stars a 16-year-old girl named Hazel with stage-4 thyroid cancer and depression. At a support group, she meets a boy named Augustus, who has lost a leg to osteosarcoma. And so their love story begins as they explore the possibility of a relationship amid the unlucky world of the sick and dying. They dare to be witty, clever and courageous in the face of what could be insurmountable grief.
Loved The Fault in Our Stars? Check out these suggestions for what to read next.
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
The sharp edge of The Fault in Our Stars comes from how tragically young Hazel and Augustus are, and the notion of facing death in adolescence. In Walker's debut, 11-year-old Julia's coming-of-age coincides with the cusp of catastrophe, as she bears witness to the terrifying deceleration of the Earth. What kind of "growing up" is there at the end of the world?
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
The YA genre often gets slammed for featuring topics that are deemed too raw and too real for young readers. But teen novels are at their best when sensitively exploring tough issues, such as in Thirteen Reasons Why, the unflinching story of a teen girl's suicide and the seven cassette tapes she leaves behind to explain her actions. The listener is a boy named Clay, who had a crush on Hannah, and whose odyssey through the tapes reveals bitter truths about ourselves and our actions' unintended consequences. Not an easy read, but undeniably powerful.
Gold by Chris Cleave
Gold received lots of attention when it came out last July—it was the much anticipated new novel from the author of Little Bee, and it was also the book to coincide with the 2012 Summer Olympics. And while the competition between friends and Olympic cyclists Kate and Zoe is fierce, the strand that binds them is Kate's 9-year-old daughter Sophie, who goes to great lengths to hide the toll that leukemia is taking on her little body. Gold is as much about cycling and competition as it is about the sacrifices made for family.
The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon
The "impossible love" story is a song older than Romeo & Juliet, and there are millions of great ones to choose from. In this novel, a white woman and an African-American man are not only in love in 1968, but they both suffer from disabilities: Lynnie has developmental disabilities that leave her with limited speech, and Homan is deaf and mute. Lynnie is also pregnant with Homan's child, and together, they escape from the deplorable conditions of the Pennsylvania State School of the Incurable and Feebleminded. When Lynnie is caught, Homan flees, and an epic, emotional tale of longing and hope continues for the next 30 years.
The Illumination by Kevin Brockmeier
Brockmeier's look at human suffering has a magical realism twist: One Friday night, every person's wounds begin to shine, emitting a strange, shimmering light. Six novella-length chapters starring six strangers, linked by a private journal of love notes written by a husband to his wife, explore the phenomenon. The result is a novel of immense beauty, as Brockmeier slowly reveals the quiet intimacies of a happy marriage, as well as the bonds and shared pain between the six strangers.
Every Day by David Levithan
Young love is love at its fiercest and blindest, and the story of A, the genderless teen consciousness who inhabits a different teenager's body every day, and the girl A falls for, is one of the most unique young loves I've ever read. Can a love between a bodiless soul and a real human possibly work? The reader will dare to hope.
Readers: What books would you recommend for fans of The Fault in Our Stars?
Sometimes, it seems like the phrase "YA trend" is an understatement. Topics don't just become popular or frequent in teen lit—they explode.
It's like a game of musical chairs, and when the music stops, everyone wants the same chair. Lately, that chair is the thriller chair, with a dash of paranormal. A paranormal seat cushion, if you will.
It's not as dramatic or strange as vampires and dystopias, but a sizeable chunk of current YA could be categorized as "psychic thriller." The deluge of murder-plus-magic makes the rare realistic thriller stand out even more.
(Why the constant mash-ups in YA? Are teens so disillusioned that authors think they can't write a thriller without the protagonist seeing ghosts, having visions or predicting the future? Is the need for escapism that great? Am I thinking about this too hard?)
Here are a few YA thrillers—paranormal and realistic—to watch for:
Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff
Someone in Hannah's peaceful suburban neighborhood is killing girls, but that's not all she's dealing with. Her best friend Lillian, who died six months ago, is still hanging around as a ghost. She also won't stop pressing Hannah to investigate the string of murders. Coming in January.
The Believing Game by Eireann Corrigan
No spooks in this one; it's all psychological. When Greer Cannon is sent off to a rehab center for troubled teens, she falls hard for handsome Addison Bradley. However, Addison's mentor Joshua is unbelievably creepy, but he makes Greer feel understood—until things go completely out of control. Coming December 1.
What We Saw at Night by Jacquelyn Mitchard
Three teens with XP (an allergy to sunlight) spend all their time roaming around town at night, and when they start practicing Parkour, they accidentally spot what appears to be a murder in progress. Coming in January.
Beautiful Lies by Jessica Warman
These twins with an Escape to Witch Mountain-esque bond can feel each other's pain, so when one of them disappears, the other knows something is horribly wrong. The twins can't trust anyone except each other, and our reviewer warns this "might not be a book to read when one is alone in a lonely, dark house."
One of the biggest complaints I hear about YA is that parents have no idea what to expect from a book, whether they'll find it appropriate for their teen or not. These crossover writers are a safe bet (and create potential lifelong readers for that author).
Said James Patterson in a New York Times interview, "The reality is that women buy most books. . . The reality is that it’s easier, and a really good habit, to start to get parents when they walk into a bookstore to say, ‘You know, I should buy a book for my kid as well.’ ”
Harlan Coben's Mickey Bolitar novels pick up where the Myron Bolitar novels left off. Mickey has a lot in common with his Uncle Myron—tall, likes basketball, has great sidekicks, solves thrilling mysteries, etc.—except that he also deals with high school, crushes and bullies. Read our review of the first Mickey Bolitar novel, Shelter.
Have you noticed this trend? Why do teens need a dash of the paranormal with their thrillers?
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
Philomel • $17.99 • ISBN 9780399256929
On sale February 12, 2013
When we blogged about Sepetys' new book a month ago, BookPage readers were so excited. So, in honor of Teen Read Week (October 14-20), we're reading her upcoming novel, Out of the Easy, set in the French Quarter of New Orleans in 1950.
Sepetys made major waves with her first novel, Between Shades of Gray, the story of a teenager named Lina in 1940s Lithuania. Lina and her family are forced by the Soviet secret police to leave their home and travel in a miserable, crammed train car to labor camps in Siberia. In an interview, Sepetys shared why she felt the world needed to learn about the Baltic deportations during Joseph Stalin's regime:
“It’s as if the voice of an entire generation was swallowed. . . . The story sort of went dark and now the people that still have ties to it are in their late 80s. A whisper is left and we’re just about to lose it.”
Sepetys has made a home of edgy historical fiction with Out of the Easy, the story of plucky, resourceful Josie Moraine. She's the daughter of a brothel prostitute, and she dreams of getting out of NOLA for good. However, a murder leaves Josie scrambling for someone to trust. Atmospheric, clever and sharp, Out of the Easy is the rich follow-up we all hoped Sepetys would deliver.
Dive into the first chapter, when Josie flashes back to her first day in New Orleans:
My mother's a prostitute. Not a filthy, streetwalking kind. She's actually quite pretty, fairly well spoken, and has lovely clothes. But she sleeps with men for money or gifts, and according to the dictionary, that makes her a prostitute.
She started working in 1940 when I was seven, the year we moved from Detroit to New Orleans. We took a cab from the train station straight to a fancy hotel on St. Charles Avenue. Mother met a man from Tuscaloosa in the lobby while having a drink. She introduced me as her niece and told the man she was delivering me to her sister. She winked at me constantly and whispered that she'd buy me a doll if I just played along and waited for her. I slept alone in the lobby that night, dreaming of my new doll. The next morning, Mother check us into our own big room with tall windows and small round soaps that smelled like lemon. She received a green velvet box with a strand of pearls from the man from Tuscaloosa.
"Josie, this town is going to treat us just fine," said Mother, standing topless in front of the mirror, admiring her new pearls.
Are you one of the many BookPage readers who look forward to Out of the Easy?
Also, be sure to check out our four favorites for Teen Read Week.