I was thrilled to learn that Trenton Lee Stewart, the author of The Mysterious Benedict Society books, is writing a prequel to his middle-grade series. The prequel is titled The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict.
Before I go on, I have to acknowledge that I have a somewhat personal connection to Stewart—we're both from Arkansas, and I profiled him for a Little Rock newspaper before I started working for BookPage. (I also moderated his session at last year's Southern Festival of Books and reviewed The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma for BookPage.com.)
The Mysterious Benedict Society series is about four very different children: steadfast, clever and "average" Reynie (the star of the books); adventurous Kate; brainy Sticky; and mind-reading, cranky and hilarious Constance. The four kids are recruited to help the genius Nicholas Benedict prevent evil Mr. Curtain from taking over the world. One of the great things about the series is that the lovable four main characters are so distinct that practically every child can find someone to identify with.
Prisoner's Dilemma—which has a conclusive ending—was supposed to be the final book in The Mysterious Benedict Society series, although Stewart has acknowledged that the decision wasn't set in stone.
The prequel, set for a spring 2012 release from Megan Tingley Books, will follow "a brilliant young boy named Nicholas Benedict, who has his own unusual friends and his own mystery to solve."
I guarantee that there are many children and teachers who will be overjoyed by this news—there was a packed crowd at the early-Saturday morning Southern Festival of Books signing, and many hands shot up immediately after Stewart's reading. (Not to mention that book one in the series was on the New York Times children's bestseller list for a year.)
Do you or your kids/students read The Mysterious Benedict Society books? Are you excited about the prequel?
Just months away from publication, Cooper withdrew the finished manuscript. Hyperion is not commenting, but Cooper says he felt the publisher was looking for a different type of book:
"I set out to write about how, in the wake of a devastating and unexpected divorce, I slowly rebuilt my life by redoubling my already decades-long commitment to humanitarian relief and human rights work. In the end, it seemed to me that Hyperion hoped to push the book in a more controversial direction -- something I was unwilling to do. I am exploring options with other publishers."
Readers, what say you?
Here's an interesting idea: Macmillan’s audio division has launched a summer campaign to encourage book clubs to listen to rather than read their picks. Nearly 50 book clubs in 30 states have participated. Per a Macmillan press release:
Reading groups are discovering different ways to fit in their monthly picks: on headphones while exercising, in the car during a long drive or on their daily commutes, or while multi-tasking around the house. Wherever they choose to listen, book clubs will come together with a whole new dynamic to add to the traditional reading group discussion: Did listening add to the experiences of the book? How well did the narrator "fit" the characters' personas?
Does your book club ever make a point to listen to audio books? Does that experience enhance your discussion? Let us know in the comments section.
By the way, in other audio book news, Woody Allen has recorded audio versions of his essay collections, which are now available for purchase on Audible.com and iTunes. Don't think for a second that Allen is much of an audio book spokesperson, though, as he is quoted in the New York Times as saying that he "hated every second" of making voice recordings. (In jest? It's hard to tell with Allen.) "There is no substitute for reading," he said, "and there never will be. Hearing something aloud is its own experience, but it’s hard to beat sitting in bed or in a comfortable chair turning the pages of a book, putting it down, and eagerly awaiting the chance to get back to it."
Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguié have been busy! The authors of the New York Times bestselling Wicked series sold the movie rights to the five-book saga back in October (we talked to the authors about that deal here on The Book Case), and book one in their new Crusade series hits stores on September 7. (In our interview in October, Holder described that project: "It’s similar in style and tone to Wicked, but it concerns a band of vampire hunters based in Salamanca, Spain, after the “Cursed Ones” have declared war on the human race. I’m in love with it.")
And now, the author duo have sold a new werewolf trilogy to Delacorte Press; their previous collaborations have been with Simon Pulse. Called The Wolf Springs Chronicles, the trilogy will be about "broken families, ageless grudges, forced alliances, and love that blooms in the darkest night," according to an announcement in Publisher's Marketplace. The first book will be published in Fall 2011.
Are you fans of Holder and Viguié? Have vampires made way for werewolves? (Exhibit A: Jackson Pearce's Sisters Red.)
Summer squash comes in all shapes and sizes, and this recipe from Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce (Wiley) by Cathy Thomas is a "handy reference" when it comes to using it up.
Olives make a great garnish for this colorful salad. Their salty brininess adds an appealing contrast. Olives with their pits still in place taste better than pitted, but if using the unpitted beauties, be sure to put them off to the side rather than atop each serving so guests have a better visual clue that they aren’t pitted.
8 ounces orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided use
2 medium yellow crookneck squash, trimmed, diced
2 medium zucchini, trimmed, diced
1/2 large red onion, finely diced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, diced
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise
Minced zest of 1 lemon (colored portion of peel)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
4 cups baby spinach or mixed baby greens
1 ounce salami, cut into 1/8-inch dice (see Meatless Tip)
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Garnish: 1/2 cup unpitted olives, such as kalamata or Niçoise
Optional garnish: microgreens
Bring large pot of salted water to boil on high heat. Add orzo and cook according to package directions until al dente (tender but with a little bite). Drain, refresh with cold water. Drain and toss with 1 teaspoon oil. Set aside.
Place zucchini, crookneck squash, onion, bell pepper, and tomatoes in large bowl. Gently toss. In small bowl or glass measuring cup with handle, combine zest, juice, 3 tablespoons oil, salt, black pepper to taste, and parsley. Stir to thoroughly combine. Pour on vegetables and toss. Add orzo and toss. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Divide spinach between 6 small plates. Top with vegetable-orzo mixture. Sprinkle each serving with diced salami and crumble cheese on top. Place a small pile of olives off to the side of each salad. If desired, scatter some microgreens (tiny immature greens) on top of salad.
Meatless Tip: Omit salami. If desired, use 1 cup pitted olives in the salad instead of 1/2 cup as a garnish.
Nutritional information (per serving without salami): Calories 310, fat calories 120; total fat 13 grams, sat fat 4 grams, cholesterol 15 milligrams; sodium 1100 milligrams; total carbohydrates 39 grams, fiber 4 grams, sugars 7 grams; protein 11 grams; vitamin A IUs 45%; vitamin C 120%; calcium 10%; iron 15%.
From Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce by Cathy Thomas; reprinted with permission from Wiley Publishing.
A couple months ago, Trisha posted the cover to Anita Shreve's latest novel (Rescue, out November 30 from Little, Brown) with a note that "no one does 'wistful' like an Anita Shreve heroine."
There's little information about the plot online, although thanks to the Little, Brown fall catalog we can get more info:
Peter Webster is a rookie paramedic when he pulls a young woman out of a car wreck that should have killed her. Sheila haunts his thoughts, and despite his misgivings, Peter is soon embroiled in an intense love affair—and in her troubled life.
Nineteen years later, Sheila is long gone and Peter is raising their daughter, Rowan, alone—until a phone call from Sheila alters their quiet existence, bringing long-buried questions back to the surface. Why did a mother leave her family? How did the marriage of two people so deeply in love unravel? A story about trespass and forgiveness, secrets and the seismic force of the truth, Rescue is a masterful portrayal of a family trying to understand its own fractured past and begin again.
Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas
HMH • $19.95 • September 1, 2010
I have been eager to read Scarlett Thomas' latest since I first heard about it back in March. As predicted, it's another book full of big ideas. This time Thomas' main focus is narrative—its limitations, restrictions and role in our lives—which she explores through the story of Meg, a would-be literary author who works as one of many ghostwriters for the Zeb Ross series of adventure novels.
Then again, perhaps it's wrong to call this a story, exactly. One of the many notions batted around in this philosophical novel is the idea of the "storyless story," a tale that refuses to follow the traditional narrative structure, and Our Tragic Universe can definitely be read as such. It's difficult to pull an excerpt from a book with so many threads—but in the one below, Meg is thinking about the ways in which tragedy is different from genre fiction.
Oedipus is an almost perfect example of the deterministic, cause-and-effect-based plot, where Y can only happen because I has happened first. . . . But every time I re-read it I marvelled at how a narrative could do so much more than just tell a satisfying story with a beginning, middle and an end, which was basically what I was always teaching the people on the retreat to do, and what I'd always done myself. Somehow, Oedipus seemed to dramatise a fundamental puzzle of human existence. Anna Karenina did this as well. So did Hamlet. . . . I could see that most narrative was an equation that balance, a zero-sum game, and that tragedy was special because you got more out of the equation that you put in, but I had no idea how to write like that. The mechanics of Oedipus were simple enough to grasp, but where did one get all that feeling from?
I'd once speculated about what would have happened if Zeb Ross had written Hamlet. There'd be no ghost, for a start. Or at least, the ghost would be reduced to a troubled teenager's hallucination, and Hamlet, with the help of his plucky love interest, Ophelia, would come to realise that his new stepfather didn't really do something as improbably and stupid as pour poison in his father's ear, and had in fact tried to save his life! Hamlet would start seeing a counsellor—perhaps Polonius, who dabbles in the self-help industry himself, would recommend someone—and come to terms with his bereavement and realise that it's OK for his mother to have sex with her new husband (although there'd be no 'rank sweat of an enseamed bed' or anything icky like that) and he'd go back to university happy, having now accepted the change in his family circumstances, with Ophelia in tow. Then I realised that if I'd written Hamlet it probably would have been like that too.
It doesn't seem that long ago that Maeve Binchy was regretfully informing her public that she would write no more. After the announcement, she released two more novels with then-publisher Dutton and lapsed into silence for 3 years.
Whatever Knopf promised her to get her to continue—more money? a less punishing schedule? both?—it has resulted in two novels since 2007, with a third to come in March 2011. Minding Frankie, like Binchy's Whitethorn Woods, is another "small town knows best" story that finds a single father fighting for custody of his daughter when a meddling social worker thinks the recovering alcoholic is an unfit parent. What she doesn't realize is that the whole town has been pitching in to "mind" baby Frankie.
Read reviews of Maeve Binchy's past work on BookPage.com.
According to an AP article published yesterday afternoon, boys trail girls in reading achievement as much as 10 percentage points in some states. The best way to get them reading is to give them "sports and historical nonfiction, potty humor, bloodthirsty vampires and action-packed graphic novels, fantasy and sleuthing." Or, as reporter Leannie Italie writes, "fart jokes."
(I bet you thought the day we wrote about Norman PhartEphant would be the last post on this topic. No such luck!)
No surprise here, but the reluctant readers I know all go crazy for Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Dav Pilkey's Captain Underpants books. The sequel to Raymond Bean's popular Sweet Farts comes out on August 3 (titled Sweet Farts: Rippin' It Old School) and Pilkey has a new book out on August 10 (The Adventures of Ook and Gluk, Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future). An alternative for kids waiting for Diary of a Wimpy Kid #5 (out November 9) is Lincoln Peirce's Big Nate: In a Class by Himself.
If you are a parent, teacher, librarian or babysitter to boys, please share: What books are the boys you know most excited about?
If you're interested in books for boys, make sure you're signed up for BookPage Reading Corner, our kids e-newsletter; we're planning an entire boy-themed issue for the fall.
This morning, The Daily Beast unveiled the cover of Meghan McCain's book Dirty Sexy Politics, which comes out August 31. (The cover is now available on Amazon.com, as well.) McCain is a weekly columnist for the online news and culture site, so I'm not surprised Hyperion gave Beast readers the first look at the jacket image:
Whether you agree with her politics or not, as one of the most vocal young Republicans around, McCain is an interesting person to follow. In the September issue, BookPage will run a hand-written Q&A with the author about Dirty Sexy Politics.
If you could ask McCain a question about her book, what would it be? Are you interested in what she has to say?
Also in BookPage: Browse past hand-written Meet the Author columns, including this month's interview with Go, Mutants! author Larry Doyle.