On New Year’s Eve, BSC publisher Scholastic distributed a press release with information about The Summer Before. The book will be about, well, the summer before the Baby-Sitter’s Club was founded, detailing a time when four tweens are “on the edge of something big—not just the club that will change their lives, but also the joys and tribulations of being a girl.”
Scholastic hopes the prequel will renew interest in the whole series, and they will also re-release paperbacks of some of the original books, starting with Kristy’s Great Idea. So kids raised on Wii and Webkinz can relate to the books, certain anachronisms (“cassette player”; “perm”) will be updated.
In a recent article from the New York Times, the words “rabid passion” are used to describe the relationship between The BSC and its fans, and I understand. Although I didn’t read all 213 titles of Ann M. Martin’s series, I probably read 100—and I modeled aspects of my life after Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia and Stacey. (I wanted Kristy’s athletic ability; Mary Anne’s boyfriend/organizational skills; Claudia’s jewelry; and Stacey’s clothes.) Not only were the girls in the series fun, entrepreneurial and relatable. They also dealt with issues like not fitting in at school, arguing with friends, divorce and diabetes. And they resonated with a lot of kids. Baby-Sitters Club books have sold 176 million copies.
What do readers think? Will The Summer Before be a hit? Will passionate fans jump to revisit Kristy and the gang, or is it better not to tamper with a series that’s already great?
What’s your favorite book from the series? I was always partial to the “Super Specials,” especially Super Special #5: California Girls! ("Who would believe it—the Baby-sitters have won the lottery! And with their winning money, the girls are all going with Dawn to... California!") Which girl were you? (I was a Mary Anne/Claudia hybrid, if that's possible.)
Related in BookPage: Read a review of Everything for a Dog, Ann M. Martin’s recent children’s book.
With the announcement of the American Library Association's children's and teen book awards coming up soon (on January 18), it's prediction season in the children's book world. English teacher and children’s book reviewer extraordinaire Dean Schneider, a member of the 2008 Newbery Committee, shares some of his predictions, a number of which he reviewed for BookPage:
Newbery Medal: When You Reach Me (Rebecca Stead)
Newbery Honors: Marching For Freedom: Walk Together Children and Don't You Grow Weary (Elizabeth Partridge); Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice (Philip M. Hoose); The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (Jacqueline Kelly)
Caldecott Medal: The Lion & The Mouse (Jerry Pinkney)
Caldecott Honors: All the World (Elizabeth Garton Scanlon)
Printz Medal: Marcelo in the Real World (Francisco X. Stork)
Printz Honors: Lips Touch by Laini Taylor; Fire (Kristin Cashore)
Sibert Medal: Charles & Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith (Deborah Heiligman)
Sibert Honors: Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice (Philip M. Hoose); Marching For Freedom: Walk Together Children and Don't You Grow Weary (Elizabeth Partridge); Truce (Jim Murphy); A Savage Thunder: Antietam and the Bloody Road to Freedom (Jim Murphy)
Do you have any other predictions? Also, be sure to bookmark the Children's Page on BookPage.com. In the bottom left corner, we highlight award winners from the past. This week we're featuring 2006 Caldecott Honor Book Rosa, by Nikki Giovanni and Bryan Collier.
This morning I came across a book trailer for Dr. Cuthbert Soup’s debut YA novel, A Whole Nother Story (the book came out a couple weeks ago). The trailer cracked me up, and I thought you might enjoy something silly to kick off your week:
If you're a Lemony Snicket fan, I think Dr. Cuthbert Soup, who has a similar mysterious persona, will hit the spot. Here’s a preview of his writing, from a behind-the-book essay in BookPage:
I had my motivation but did I have a story to tell and, more importantly, would my story be worthy of that coveted slot between War and Peace and Wart Removal For Dummies? After all, the last thing I wanted was to write a book that would find itself lying on a table beneath a sign reading, “Books for under three dollars” or” Books: twelve cents a pound” or “Free kindling.” Actually the last thing I wanted was to be eaten alive by a swarm of larger-than-average ants. Still, authoring an uninteresting book was fairly high on the list of things I did not want to happen.
Happy New Year!
To set the tone for 2010, we're giving away the paperback version of one of 2009's hottest mystery debuts. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is the first in a new series starring precocious preteen sleuth Flavia de Luce, who solves mysteries in 1950s England between bouts with her two older sisters.
In our review, BookPage contributor Arlene McKanic said that "Readers will want more, much more, of Flavia de Luce!" If you want to find out what all the fuss is about before the sequel, The Weed that Strings the Handman's Bag, comes out in March, leave a comment telling us about the best mystery YOU read last year. We'll pick a winner from among the entries received before 10 am CST on January 4. Good luck!
I’m always interested in discovering new authors, and a couple weeks ago I was intrigued by an obituary for Milorad Pavic, a Serbian novelist who died on Nov. 30, at age 80. I haven't read any of Pavic’s books, but it seems that readers who love language and nonlinear narratives would find a gold mine in his novels.
Dictionary of the Khazars, from 1988, is organized (you guessed it) like a dictionary. According to the New York Times, the novel, “which purports to be the republication of a late-17th-century dictionary printed in poison ink, opens encouragingly:
The author assures the reader that he will not have to die if he reads this book, as did the user of the 1691 edition, when ‘The Khazar Dictionary’ still had its first scribe.” Ha!
Landscape Painted With Tea, another of Pavic’s novels, is organized as a crossword puzzle: “Readers may approach the book chronologically by reading only the “Across” sections, or less chronologically and with more digressions by reading the “Down” sections. Either strategy gradually reveals the story of a soul-searching architect who roams a labyrinth of meditation and memory.”
That description reminded me of a novel I’ve been working at reading for a couple of years now. (I know you all have one: the book you keep picking up and putting down again—but dang it you will finish it!) Julio Cortázar’s Hopscotch is structured in an equally unusual fashion as Pavic’s books; you can either read it in direct sequence, from beginning to end. . . or you can “hopscotch” through the book’s chapters by following a table provided by Cortázar. (I think of it as a “Choose Your Own Adventure” for grownups.)
Since I’m compiling my reading list for 2010, I wondered if readers had suggestions for other wackily-structured novels, or authors who employ an unusual device in their writing.
As 2010 rolls around, I know many of you will be making picks for a book club you’ve been a part of for years, or you’ll be joining a new group. (Or, maybe you’ve got your picks lined up months in advance. If so, please share the titles in the comments!)
My mom recently joined a book club in Arkansas, and I know she’s excited about January and February: Steven Galloway’s The Cellist of Sarajevo and Alice Munro’s Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage are on the docket.
If you’re just starting a club, BookPage has many resources: We have a book club column in the print edition of BookPage (click here for December’s highlighted books); and we’ve got an entire page dedicated to all things book club on BookPage.com, where you can learn about new books out in paperback, write a profile about your club or review books your group enjoyed.
What books will your club be reading in 2010?
Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby
September 2009, Riverhead
Juliet, Naked follows the intertwining stories of Duncan, a college professor in a small English town whose one passion is for the music of Tucker Crowe; Duncan's girlfriend Annie, who is beginning to realize how angry she is that she's just spent 15 years with a man who loves Tucker Crowe more than her; and Tucker Crowe himself, who has been in near-seclusion in rural Pennsylvania since shortly after the release of his greatest album, Juliet, in 1986. Hornby has a gift for illuminating the inner lives of his characters, from their moments of petty jealousy to the recognition of their scariest or most humbling needs. I especially appreciate his insight into the kind of fannish obsession that Duncan has for Tucker Crowe, which both embarrasses and sustains him. I always love Hornby's characters, and this book is no exception; I'm almost excited that I have another flight tomorrow, so I can have an excuse to plow through the rest of Juliet, Naked and find out how it ends!
What really frightened him was how spectacularly his transgression had paid off. All these years, he'd done nothing more than read and listen and think, and though he'd been stimulated by these activities, what had he uncovered, really? And yet by behaving like a teenage hooligan with a screw loose, he had made a major breakthrough. He was the only Crowologist in the world who knew about that picture, and he could never tell anyone about it, unless he wished to own up to being mentally unbalanced. Every other year spent on his chosen subject had been barren compared to the last couple of hours. But that couldn't be the way forward, surely? He didn't want to be the kind of man who plunged his arms into trash cans in the hope of finding a letter, or a piece of bacon rind that Crowe might have chewed. By the time he got back to the hotel, he had convinced himself he was finished with Tucker Crowe.
What are you reading today?
The novel Wolf Hall has gotten more than its fair share of press this fall and winter—Booker Prize notwithstanding, it also earned a place on our top 10 fiction list and a glowing review from contributor Lauren Bufferd—but I couldn't resist adding one more blog post to the load. I finished the novel last week. Contrary to what the paragraph in your high school history book might imply, it took years of plotting and scheming for Henry VIII to get his marriage annulled and marry Anne Boylen, and Mantel's brilliant, meticulous recreation of these events is a remarkable achievement, if occasionally overwhelming to those unfamiliar with the 16th-century mindset. (However, corporate types and frequent "Survivor" viewers will probably identify easily with the cutthroat atmosphere and clandestine alliances.) Equally impressive is her reinvention of Thomas Cromwell, a man she sees quite differently from most historians.
Wolf Hall is first in a trilogy, and during a recent interview at Daunt Books in London, Mantel revealed a bit more about the second installment, The Mirror and the Light. "It picks up in the autumn of 1535, when the holiday makers at Wolf Hall in Wiltshire take Cromwell through his further rise and his abrupt fall in 1540," says Mantel toward the end of this clip (part 3 of 3 of the interview):
We are thrilled to announce the launch of BookPage Book of the Day – our first-ever daily e-newsletter!
This idea has been in the works for a while. We figure that many of you don’t have time to read BookPage cover-to-cover, and it might be easier to take a little bite of it every day.
With BookPage Book of the Day, you’ll receive a brand new review every weekday in your inbox. We’ll cover fiction on Mondays and Thursdays, nonfiction on Tuesdays and Fridays, and mystery or romance on Wednesdays. We’re only covering the newest books, so in January you can look forward to recent (or coming) releases from Tracy Chevalier, Elizabeth Gilbert, Beth Hoffman, J.M. Coetzee, Jude Deveraux and more.
(As a personal note, I’ve already read the books featured on Monday and Thursday in the first week in January, and they were both excellent. Seriously: There are some great books coming out in 2010.)
On Dec. 26, Amazon reported that it sold more e-books than physical books on Christmas Day. Also, the Kindle was the top gift sold on Amazon this holiday season (and apparently the top-selling gift on Amazon.com of all time).
These stats—at least regarding sales of e-books vs. physical books on Christmas Day—did not surprise me. One of the lures of e-books is instant gratification, and if anyone got an e-reader under the tree this year, I would bet that one of the first things they did was some online shopping for an e-book.
I received only physical books this year (including Jane Austen's Little Advice Book -- Aww), although I have big plans to blog about my experience reading on BookPage’s Kindle.
Since I know readers of The Book Case are some of the busiest readers around, I wondered how you received books this year. Did you get a new e-reader? Or did your family and friends stick to gifting classic ink-and-paper books?
Also: What was your favorite book you received? My family didn't give me too many books this year (probably because my bookshelf is about to topple as it is), although I was intrigued by Michael Crichton's Pirate Latitudes; my cousin excused himself from our Christmas dinner table in order to race through the final pages...