Room by Emma Donoghue
Little, Brown • $24.99 • September 13, 2010
As a longtime fan of Emma Donoghue, I was eager to read Room the moment I heard about it. I took a copy home over the weekend, but didn't have a chance to pick it up until Sunday night. My plan was to read "just a few pages" before bed. An hour and a half later I had to force myself to put it down. Not since The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time have I been so compelled by a child narrator: just-turned-five Jack's account of his life as a captive in an 11 x 11-foot room with his mother is especially powerful because for him, it is not a nightmare. Thanks to his imaginative and loving mother, he is as close to normal as a child raised without other contact can be.
"Can they come here sometime for real?"
"I wish they could," she says. "I pray for it so hard, every night."
"I don't hear you."
"Just in my head," says Ma.
I didn't know she prays things in her head where I can't hear.
"They're wishing it too," she says, "but they don't know where I am."
"You're in Room with me."
"But they don't know where it is, and they don't know about you at all."
That's weird. "They could look on Dora's Map, and when they come I could pop out at them for a surprise."
Ma nearly laughs but not quite. "Room's not on any map."
"We could tell them on a telephone, Bob the Builder has one."
"But we don't."
"We could ask for one for Sundaytreat." I remember. "If Old Nick stops being mad."
"Jack. He'd never give us a phone, or a window." Ma takes my thumbs and squeezes them. "We're like people in a book, and he won't let anybody else read it."
At what other formal occasion would you take a seat at your table in a grand ballroom and be greeted by a gaggle of giraffes on top of your plate?
Only at the Newbery Caldecott Banquet, an annual event honoring the best in children's literature. This year's banquet was held Sunday night in Washington, D.C. as part of the American Library Association's annual conference, and Kate and I were thrilled to be among the hundreds in attendance. Changing quickly out of our convention clothes into something spiffier, we rushed over to the Hilton and took our seats at a fun table with BookPage husband-and-wife super reviewers Dean Schneider (2008 Newbery Committee member) and Robin Smith (2011 Caldecott Committee member).
After dinner, librarians, authors, illustrators, publishing industry pros and others who love children's books listened with rapt attention as Rebecca Stead accepted the Newbery Medal for When You Reach Me and Jerry Pinkney accepted the Caldecott Medal for The Lion & the Mouse. The Newbery honors the "most distinguished American children's book" of the previous year, while the Caldecott goes to "the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children." Though both award winners were announced in January, the summer banquet and acceptance speeches are a cherished tradition that give children's authors and illustrators a chance to shine.
And shine they did. A gracious Jerry Pinkney, who's 70 years old and has been illustrating children's books since 1964, joked about being a five-time Caldecott Honor recipient (the runner-up award). When Caldecott Committee Chair Rita Auerbach called early on a January morning with the announcement that he had won the Caldecott, Pinkney said he waited anxiously for her to add the word "Honor." When she didn't -- and it finally dawned on him that he had won the big one -- Pinkney turned from the phone to share the exciting news with Gloria, his wife of 50 years.
Pinkney's winning book takes young readers to the plains of the Serengeti for what Auerbach called "a stunning and caring retelling of a classic tale." Since The Lion & The Mouse is a wordless picture book, Pinkney said, illustrator Mo Willems advised him to give a wordless acceptance speech. He passed on that suggestion, and instead gave listeners an introduction to his creative process, noting that he is "just as excited today as he was 50 years ago," when he was illustrating his first book. In a wordless book, Pinkney said, "it's about what you discover in the images. Each reader is free to take his or her own journey through the pages." And what a beautiful journey it is, reproduced in miniature in the illustrations that graced the evening's program.
Next up at the speaker's podium was Rebecca Stead, who was honored for what Newbery Committee chair Katie O'Dell described as a "highly original, brilliantly crafted novel," When You Reach Me. "I wanted to write a great speech," Stead said. "I wanted you to know the kind of happiness I felt on the morning of January 18." But having been warned by a friendly librarian that she should keep her remarks as short as possible (and having given the librarian a flashlight to wave from the audience if she talked too long) Stead decided instead to give what she called four short speeches: on becoming a storyteller, on the creation of When You Reach Me, on getting the Newbery news and on being grateful.
"Like many people who secretly want to write, I became a lawyer," she told the crowd with a laugh, relating her personal journey from a childhood where books held a special place to a writing workshop where an editor spotted her talent. She touched on some of the elements from her own life that inspired When You Reach Me (including her work in a Subway sandwich shop) and explained that, ultimately the book is more about exploring "the mysteries of life" than about time travel. Finally, Stead saluted many of those she is grateful to, from her agent and editor, to the members of the Newbery Committee (for "a lightning bolt of joy"), to illustrator Sophie Blackall ("for the gift of her gorgeous cover art") to librarians everywhere ("the smartest, funniest, most open-minded people I have ever met"). Stead's presentation was self-effacing, sometimes hilarious and extremely touching. We can't wait for her next book, though we hear she's been so overwhelmed by the Newbery hoopla she'll only now have a chance to start writing again.
Congratulations also to Newbery Honor winners Phillip Hoose (Claudette Colvin); Jacqueline Kelly (The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate): Grace Lin (Where the Mountain Meets the Moon); and Rodman Philbrick (The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg); and to Caldecott Honor recipients Marla Frazee (All the World) and Pamela Zagarenski (Red Sings from Treetops).
It was a wonderful night for listening to inspiring authors, and for spotting many others in the audience (Libba Bray, John Green, Linda Sue Park, Brian Selznick and Jon Scieska, to name but a few). I'm already looking forward to next year's banquet in New Orleans!
Jacquelyn Mitchard made it big when The Deep End of the Ocean was chosen for the first Oprah's Book Club pick in 1996. Eighteen books later, after losing all of her investments in a Ponzi scheme, the bestselling author is turning toward Oprah again, or rather the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). Mitchard has entered "Oprah's Search for the Next TV Star." If she wins, she'll get a daytime talk show on OWN called "Oh, Jackie!"
To view Mitchard's audition video (and vote!), click here. (The most popular online audition videos will go to the next level in the competition, which culminates in a competition series on TV.)
Mitchard elaborated on her talk show concept on her blog:
And that's what I would want to do—a daytime vision of Joy Behar with a little more snap and slapstick a la Ellen DeGeneres (there is only one Ellen and long may she reign), with some stories that are really stories (like Oprah's story about Janni, a seven-year-old schizophrenic, who is the beautiful and tragic daughter of two of my dear friends). There would also be some visits that are really visits, in the manner of James Lipton on 'Inside the Actor's Studio,' although perhaps not quite so ... er, long-winded and worshipful (sorry James; really, still ask my son Marty to be on one day when he's famous!).
A new trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is now available:
Not gonna lie, it gave me goosebumps. (And made me think that it's time to start dusting off that Gryffindor scarf I got for Christmas a few years ago.) What about you? The trailer also raises some questions. Certain scenes (the face-off between Harry and Voldemort) will logically appear in Part II of Deathly Hallows. So this trailer is for both parts of the movie? The entire movie (Parts I and II) were filmed back-to-back, but I can't think of a natural separation point in the book. What do you think? Are you concerned that Part I will end at an awkward point?
Finally, what are your thoughts on watching a Harry Potter movie in 3D? I will tentatively say that I'm not crazy about the idea; I'm afraid that the effect will distract from the story and the characters, plus I like for the movies to be somewhat cohesive.
By the way, anyone had a chance to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter?
Chevy Stevens' debut novel Still Missing hits stores a week from today. For the book trailer, St. Martin's did something a little different: recorded reactions from early supporters of the book (mostly booksellers). As they rave about Stevens' ability to shift back and forth between two voices—the same character, at two very different points in her life—they also provide a plot description:
My experience reading Still Missing was similar to the first recorded voice. Abby and Trisha brought me a review copy from BEA, and I ended up reading the book in one sleepless night! In the July 6 edition of BookPageXTRA, we're featuring a Q&A with author Chevy Stevens. Here's a one-line teaser from the interview:
"I’ve always been attracted to stories about twisted family dynamics and survivors of crime."
Intrigued? Click here to sign up for XTRA if you're not already on our mailing list, because content on this novel will appear there first.
Just for fun, here's another Still Missing book trailer from Stevens' Australian publisher Allen & Unwin:
Are you interested in this book?
Books highlighted on our website this week take readers from the border between Burma and Thailand, to Nagasaki harbor, to Butte, Montana. To go on the journey, all you have to do is. . .
Read a review of Ivan Doig's Work Song
Ivan Doig, born and bred in Montana, has written many popular works of fiction about the American West. In Work Song, he returns to his best-selling 2008 novel The Whistling Season [BookPage review] and its central character, Morrie Morgan. The place: Butte, Montana of 1919, a bustling post-World War I copper mining capital, where “The Richest Hill on Earth” has enticed Morrie to try his luck at siphoning off a few of the riches said to be waiting in its famed copper veins under the earth. Keep reading...
Read an interview with Mitali Perkins about Bamboo People
Guerilla warfare, child soldiers and landmines: What do these ripped-from-the-headlines terms have to do with a coming-of-age story for young readers? As it turns out, quite a bit. While displacement camps and military maneuvers are not the trappings of your standard touchy-feely “do the right thing” tale, they bring a sense of hard-edged reality to Mitali Perkins’ Bamboo People, an intriguing and insightful story about two boys learning how to become men in the midst of chaos. Keep reading...
Read a review of David Mitchell's The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
A versatile and imaginative writer, David Mitchell has earned a devoted following for his virtuosic novels, two of which have been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. With his sumptuous new novel, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, Mitchell eschews the postmodern razzle-dazzle of Cloud Atlas and Number9Dream for a more straightforward, albeit exquisitely detailed, historical romance about a Dutch outpost in Nagasaki harbor at the turn of the 19th century and Japan’s reluctant passage from isolation to trading partner of the West. Keep reading...
Which of these books will you read first? I have my eyes on The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet.
Bantam Dell has announced that Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Stephen Hawking will publish another book about "the ultimate mysteries of the universe" (via GalleyCat). Hawking is something of a celebrity scientist as a result of his mega-bestselling book A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes. The new book will be titled The Grand Design and be published Sept. 7.
In a review of The Universe in a Nutshell, Hawking's follow-up to A Brief History of Time, Michael Sims wrote that the "fun and accessible" book includes "such challenging topics as time travel, the reconciliation of Einsteinian relativity and quantum theory, and even the frightening possibilities in the inevitable co-evolution of biological and technological life."
In The Grand Design, you can expect to learn about "a single theory that can describe and explain all the forces of nature." Sounds intriguing—will you look for this book?
For more on Hawking, watch his TED talk on "some Big Questions about our universe."
It's been another great week for reading book blogs, and I especially enjoyed the following two posts. What about you? Please share your own recommendations in the comments.
Other Audiobook Week discussions
Posted by Jen on Devourer of Books
Over at Devourer of Books, Jen has hosted a fantastic Audiobook Week series since Monday. This particular post provides a roundup of other audiobook-appreciation posts from around the book blog community. Read about why people keep coming back to audiobooks, recommendations for great listens, thoughts on narrators and more.
In honor of National Audiobook Month, don't miss this essay from Jane Smiley on the companionship of audiobooks, featured in the June edition of BookPage.
Meeting the Goose
Posted by Justine van der Leun on The Paris Review Daily
I loved Justine van der Leun's post on The Paris Review's blog about meeting MLH—aka "My Literary Hero." I think most of us can identify with van der Leun's adoration: "Like MLH? I loved MLH: immediately, completely, and obsessively. It wasn’t a romantic crush; it was a writer crush, and it endured." But the horror of meeting MLH and realizing—gasp—that you don't get along!
The post title is taken from a quote by Arthur Koestler: “To want to meet an author because you like his books is as ridiculous as wanting to meet the goose because you like pate de foie gras.” Do you agree? Have you ever met your own personal MLH? (Abby has. Read about her experience here. Luckily, her meeting was positive.)
I have never met anyone who's read more mysteries than our own Bruce Tierney, Whodunit columnist extraordinaire. For years he's been choosing a mystery of the month, and Karin Slaughter has been a pick multiple times. He says her latest, Broken, which went on sale Tuesday, is the best so far: "There are secrets in Grant County, and unearthing some of them can be lethal, even if you carry a badge."
Yesterday Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book—which won the Newbery Medal in 2009—took home The Carnegie Medal in Literature. The Carnegie is the UK's most prestigious children's book award, and according to Gaiman in his acceptance speech, it's also the most important book award that exists—since it was the first literary award he became familiar with when he read C.S. Lewis' The Last Battle.
Gaiman is the first author to win both the Carnegie and the Newbery.
For more on The Graveyard Book, read a review in BookPage—in which Angela Leeper praises Gaiman's "sharp, spine-tingling storytelling." Also, watch Gaiman's acceptance speech or the embedded video below of Gaiman talking about the award.
Did you enjoy The Graveyard Book?