One of the more anticipated novels of the year just hit the BookPage offices, and so far it more than justifies the hype. Justin Cronin's The Passage was inspired by his 9-year-old daughter—she asked him to write a novel about a girl who saved the world. Four years later, Cronin, known for his quiet literary works, had completed a 700-page manuscript that was the talk of the 2007 Frankfurt Book Fair and sold for $3 million.
Layered and complex, The Passage is the type of vividly imagined book that really draws readers in. Cronin is able to make characters who only appear on 10 pages as alive as his main characters, and in the novel's first 100 pages he has set the stage for what promises to be an epic saga: a young girl is abandoned; a scientific team on an expedition in South America discovers a mysterious, deadly virus; a death row inmate is released and transported to a secret location by a military operative for experimentation.
The story begins like this:
Before she became the Girl from Nowhere—the One Who Walked In, the First and Last and Only, who lived a thousand years—she was just a little girl in Iowa, named Amy. Amy Harper Bellafonte.
The day Amy was born, her mother, Jeannette, was nineteen years old. Jeannette named her baby Amy for her own mother, who'd died when Jeannette was little, and gave her the middle name Harper for Harper Lee, the lady who'd written To Kill a Mockingbird—truth be told, the only book she'd made it all the way through in high school. She might have named her Scout, after the little girl in the story, because she wanted her little girl to grow up like that, tough and funny and wise, in a way that she, Jeannette, had never managed to be. But Scout was a name for a boy, and she didn't want her daughter to have to go around explaining something like that.
There are a few narrators that stick out in my mind as being foundational personalities in my tween identity: Claudia Kincaid, Meg Murry, Vicky Austin, Polly O'Keefe, Margaret Simon, Harriet Welsch, Sal Hiddle. . . the list goes on.
When I recently finished Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me, the winner of the 2010 Newbery Medal, I felt like I had met a girl who deserves a spot on that list of superstars: Miranda, the spirited protagonist of Stead’s novel, named for both Miranda warnings and Miranda of “The Tempest.” Miranda is a natural fit between Claudia (From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler) and Meg (A Wrinkle in Time). She is savvy on the streets of New York City, curious, thoughtful—but not without a bit of attitude, interested in time travel.
Her story takes place in the late 1970s, but young readers today will identify with her life. When the novel beings, Miranda is helping her single mom, a paralegal who wears funky tights and blue nail polish, study to win big on “The $20,000 Pyramid.” In an opening funny moment, Miranda explains that she’s creating study guides for her mom “instead of watching after-school TV, which is a birthright of every latchkey child.”
Over the course of Stead’s 200-page middle-grade novel, Miranda deals with changing friendships, bullying, racial prejudice directed toward a classmate, a first crush, different income levels within her school—all while solving a mystery that could save her friend’s life. There are clues sprinkled throughout the book, not least of all Miranda’s love for A Wrinkle in Time, which she carries around and reads compulsively.
In a review for BookPage, Dean Schneider summed up the merits of When You Reach Me: “What could be better: a great setting, believable characters and a mystery deftly woven by a fine writer.” He couldn’t be more right. Read the book and see for yourself.
What characters will you always remember from childhood favorites?
One of the more interesting literary stories floating around the blogosphere these days comes from France, where two of the country's most respected female authors are once again disputing a charge of plagiarism in the public eye.
Back in 2007, Camille Laurens accused Marie Darrieussecq of taking elements from her 1995 book, Phillipe, inspired by the death of her newborn son, to write the novel Tom est mort, about a grieving mother who loses a child. Though only one sentence from the two works was actually identical, according to Laurens, Darrieussecq was guilty of not just plagiarism but "psychological plagiarism" (plagiat psychique). In her turn, Darrieussecq said Laurens was trying to "assassinate" her.
For the next year, the two traded highbrow insults and accusations: charges of plagiarism against Darrieussecq from 1998 resurfaced; Laurens was said to be jealous of the younger writer's success; their shared editor, Paul Otchakovsky, dropped Laurens.
The two authors both have books out this month that prove neither is ready to forgive and forget. Darrieussecq's is not the expected novel: Rapport de police (Police report) is a treatise on plagiarism, which she claims comes from the secret desire of the plagiarist to be plagiarised themselves. In interviews with the French press, she calls Laurens insolent "to imagine herself as the center of my novel, to think that I had written the book thinking of her and not my mother" and says the accusation came from the Freudian desire to be the only "child" of Otchakovsky.
Laurens' new book, Romance nerveuse, doesn't necessarily disprove that: it's a thinly veiled account of the entire incident that places huge emphasis on the emotional devastation of the writer dropped by her editor.
A recent piece in the Guardian reminds us that literary feuds are nothing new. But to me, literary feuds couched in the language of philosophy and psychoanalysis seem uniquely French.
We’re always trying to think of innovative ways to spread the word about BookPage, but I think the Thomas Branigan Memorial Library in Las Cruces, New Mexico, might take the cake. Starting in mid-January, the library will distribute copies of BookPage on 12 of Las Cruces’ transit buses.
I read about this neat idea in the Las Cruces Sun-News Branigan book notes column, then followed up with Outreach Librarian Mark Pendleton. Below, Mark explains the project.
What programs do you enjoy at your local library? Tell us in the comments.
Why are you offering BookPage on transit buses?
BookPage is a great way to promote the Library, especially with the customized back page where we put a schedule of library events for the month. We distribute BookPage at several other locations around town [besides the Library]—three grocery stores, two used book stores, the City Hall help/information desk, a food co-op, a Middle Eastern deli, market and restaurant, to name a few—and we’re always on the lookout for a new venue to try.
In fact, last September, we started placing BookPage in the 400 welcome packets that the local newcomers’ welcome service gives out each month. We think that the bus riders might enjoy something to read and it seems like a great opportunity to increase the Library’s visibility in the community.
Where will the buses run?
The buses run in Las Cruces and on the New Mexico State University campus.
How many people will be served by this program?
There are about 1,800—2,000 daily trips (one person riding one way) on the buses where the racks will be, so that gives you an idea of how many people will be seeing the BookPage racks.
How did you arrange this project?
We made an arrangement with the transit system. This was helped by the Director of the City’s Public Services Department (of which both the Library and the Transit system are part) being the former Library Director. The head of the Transit system was also in favor of the idea, so that helped, too.
What other projects does the Thomas Branigan Memorial Library have lined up for 2010?
Since July 2008, we have offered a books-by-mail program that allows library patrons to receive their materials through the mail. It is extremely popular (about 1,150 transactions per month) and why not, since we pay the postage both ways. We also have a homebound program that is staffed by volunteers who visit with persons who can’t get out of their homes and get an idea of what they like to read, and then every two weeks, they deliver books and/or audio books to them. This has been going for more than twenty years.
Also, starting sometime in the next month or so, I am going to start another new promotional program. I will talk with the owners and/or managers of several hotels/motels in town and get their okay to place mini-posters about library services and business card-size maps of Branigan Library’s location in their lobbies.
In celebration of Martin Luther King Day, we wanted to bring your attention to some new releases from Hachette Audio.
Martin Luther King: The Essential Box Set: The Landmark Speeches and Sermons of Martin Luther King, Jr. This collection brings together 24 original recordings from Dr. King, from “I Have a Dream” to the “A Knock at Midnight” sermon. There are 12 sermons and 12 speeches included in the box set, each introduced by Civil Rights champions such as Desmond Tutu and Rosa Parks.
Martin Luther King Jr., on Leadership: Inspiration and Wisdom for Challenging Times. This audiobook explains how Dr. King led the Civil Rights movement with open communication, powerful language and courage.
The Concise King includes excerpts from Dr. King’s speeches and sermons, with introductions from Rosa Parks, Senator Edward Kennedy and others. This collection would be a great intro to King’s teachings.
If you’re looking for books about Dr. King, we’ve got plenty of coverage on BookPage.com. Check out a few of the following titles: Blessed Are the Peacemakers by Martin Luther King, Jr. and S. Jonathan Bass; The Dream by Drew D. Hansen; and King: The Photobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Bob Adelman.
What audiobooks/books about Dr. King would you recommend?
What an exciting day for children’s literature.
This morning the American Library Association announced the Youth Media Awards winners at the Midwinter Meeting in Boston.
On January 5, BookPage reviewer and 2008 Newbery Committee member Dean Schneider shared his awards predictions with us, and he was almost startlingly on target. As he predicted, Rebecca Stead won the Newbery Medal for When You Reach Me and Jerry Pinkney won the Caldecott Medal for The Lion & The Mouse.
In a July 2009 review for BookPage, Schneider wrote of When You Reach Me: "What could be better: a great setting, believable characters and a mystery deftly woven by a fine writer. This is a book to be reckoned with come Newbery season."
Schneider was equally exuberant about The Lion & The Mouse upon its publication in September, writing: "Jerry Pinkney’s latest picture book is an absolutely gorgeous example of book making and pictorial storytelling, a wordless book readers will 'read' over and over again, each time noticing new treasures in the pictures."
Newbery Honors went to Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose; The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly; Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin; and The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick.
Caldecott Honors were awarded to All the World, illustrated by Marla Frazee and written by Liz Garton Scanlon; and Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski and written by Joyce Sidman.
Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal won the Coretta Scott King (Author) book Award. Bad News for Outlaws was written by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie.
My People won the Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award. My People was illustrated by Charles R. Smith Jr. and written by Langston Hughes.
Click here for a complete list of winners and tell us why you agreed or disagreed with this year’s honored books.
Writer and columnist Anna Quindlen seems to move between fact and fiction with ease, juxtaposing nonfiction like A Short Guide to a Happy Life with moving novels like Black and Blue. On April 27, Random House will publish Quindlen's sixth novel, Every Last One.
Little is known about the new book yet, but we're expecting galleys any day.
Are you a Quindlen fan? Why or why not?
Katherine Paterson, the recently-appointed National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and two-time winner of the National Book Award and Newbery Medal, has some news. And we have a long time to get excited about it. Candlewick Press has announced the publication of her middle grade novel, The Flint Heart. The novel will be released in March. . . 2012.
I suppose that Candlewick announced the novel’s release so early in order to piggyback on Paterson’s National Ambassador press. What do you think? Is it effective to build buzz two years early?
In any case, I’m excited for the release, which will be a retelling of Eden Phillpotts’ 1910 “fantastical cautionary tale” of the same title (which is available for free online).
Paterson will co-write with her husband, John Paterson. John Rocco, who worked as the pre-production art director for the movie Shrek, will illustrate.
Related in BookPage: Read a review of Katherine Paterson’s The Same Stuff as Stars.
Early reviews, and the opinions of your BookPage editors, indicate that the legendary battle of the "sophomore slump" has been won by two anticipated second novels on shelves this month: Joshua Ferris' The Unnamed and Elizabeth Kostova's The Swan Thieves. (Click on the author's name to read a BookPage interview.)
But there are a few other anticipated second novels on the horizon in 2010. Will they be as favored by the publishing gods? Go ahead, judge them by our summary of the publisher's description:
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Horns by Joe Hill (February)
The author of Heart-Shaped Box (and son of Stephen King) returns with a chilling tale of a young man bent on revenge after his girlfriend is murdered.
Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel (April)
His second novel needs no introduction (and besides, we've already been there on this blog!). Will it achieve the stratospheric success of Life of Pi?
The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry (May)
The author of The Lace Reader returns with a new novel about a woman who lost her mother to suicide. Now a psychotherapist, she must with the suicide of her most troubled patient.
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender (June)
Known for her short stories, Bender has published only one previous novel. This magical second work is about a young girl who discovers she can taste people's emotions in the food they cook, and must deal with what she learns about others. Loving the title and the concept on this one—if Bender's novels are as good as her stories, count me in!
Kings of the Earth by Jon Clinch (July)
His new work (following the acclaimed Finn) is a “mythic” story about three brothers in upstate New York who live together in isolation—until one dies and the other two are suspected of his murder.
Geeze, this is already a big year for Steve Martin, and it’s only January! He was typically hilarious and perfect as Meryl Streep’s romantic interest in It’s Complicated, and in March he’ll co-host the Academy Awards with Alec Baldwin.
And now he can check off “book deal” from his 2010 to-do list. He has signed a deal with Grand Central to write Woman One, a novel which “examines the glamour and the subterfuge of the fine art world” in New York. The book will be released in November 2010.
Martin will also write a children’s book titled Late for School, based on a song from his album “New Songs for the 5-String Banjo.” (Watch him performing it live after the jump.) No word yet on a publication date. The book will pub in September. (Via New York Times.)
Related content: In 2001, BookPage reviewer Joanna Brichetto wrote that Martin’s novella Shopgirl will “shock” readers expecting to find “zany riffs and hilariously skewed observations” from the comedian. Instead, Shopgirl is a “sweet, courageous exploration of a young woman’s search for selfhood and love.”
What’s your favorite Steve Martin role? Inspector Clouseau? Author? Banjo player?