Because we love libraries, we're very excited about the new LibraryReads program. In case you haven't heard about it, here's how it works: Library staffers across the country nominate the books coming out each month that they've really enjoyed reading and are most eager to recommend to library patrons. The 10 that receive the most nominations are compiled onto a list of books that have the endorsement of not just one but many librarians—so you know they're going to be good. Without further ado, the September LibraryReads list:
1. FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell
St. Martin’s, $18.99, ISBN 9781250030955
A teen girl is torn between the safety of writing fan fiction and the vulnerability that comes with joining the real world in this romantic, witty tale.
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2. HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN by Louise Penny
Minotaur, $25.99, ISBN 9780312655471
As the holiday season approaches, the search for a missing woman draws Chief Inspector Gamache to the small town of Three Pines. (How the Light Gets In is our Top Pick in Mysteries for September. Read our review.)
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3. NIGHT FILM by Marisha Pessl
Random House, $28, ISBN 9781400067886
When the daughter of a cult film director dies in a suspicious accident, investigative journalist Scott McGrath is determined to uncover the truth. (Read our interview with Pessl.)
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4. HELP FOR THE HAUNTED by John Searles
Morrow, $26.99, ISBN 9780060779634
After her parents are murdered, teenager Sylvie Mason must find the courage to explore her family’s many secrets—including the strange sounds coming from their basement.
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When the dead begin to return to their homes in cities around the world, a small Southern town feels the effects. (The Returned is our Top Pick in Fiction for September. Read our review.)
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This literary debut, inspired by the true story of a woman executed for murder in Iceland in 1829, brings this remote time and place to brilliant life. (Read our review.)
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7. MARGOT by Jillian Cantor
Riverhead, $16, ISBN 9781594486432
What if Anne Frank’s older sister, Margot, had survived the Holocaust? YA author Cantor ponders that question with sensitivity and insight in her adult fiction debut.
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In the days after Hurricane Katrina, 45 people died inside New Orleans’ Memorial Medical Center. Fink recounts these dramatic events with accuracy and heart. (Five Days at Memorial is our Top Pick in Nonfiction for September. Read our review.)
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While working as a novice journalist in Mogadishu, Lindhout and her companion were captured and held for ransom for more than a year. This harrowing memoir explains how she survived.
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?
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.
The Diviners by Libba Bray
Little, Brown • $19.99 • ISBN 9780316126113
On sale September 18, 2012
Ages 15 and up
With the recent news that Baz Luhrmann's take on The Great Gatsby (Fitz, help us) has been pushed back to Summer 2013, you'll need something to tide you over until then. I know you've already purchased your flapper dress and bedazzled your dancing shoes, but you can still go crazy about the Roaring Twenties with the help of Printz Award-winning author Libba Bray's newest, The Diviners.
This atmospheric novel is technically for teens, but it'll fit right in on your TBR list with Laura Moriarty's The Chaperone and Emma Straub's upcoming Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures (9/4).
Evie O'Neill comes to glamorous NYC in 1926, where she's thrilled to explore speakeasies, shopping, Broadway and more. The only downside is she has to live with her uncle, curator of the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult. Not to mention, Evie has a supernatural secret of her own: She can uncover details about people by holding any object that belongs to them. When a girl is found murdered and branded with a cryptic symbol, Evie might be able to use that power to find a killer.
And that's only the beginning! Check out an excerpt from the opening gin party, where Bray draws you in with her pitch-perfect '20s flair:
The hostess, a pretty and spoiled young thing, notes her guests' restlessness with a sense of alarm. It is her eighteenth birthday, and if she doesn't do something to raise this party from the dead, it will be the talk for days to come that her gathering was as dull as a church social.
Raising from the dead.
The weekend before, she'd been forced to go antiquing upstate with her mother—an absolutely hideous chore, until they came upon an old Ouija board. Ouija boards were all the rage; psychics have claimed to receive messages and warnings from the other side using Mr. Fuld's "talking board." The antiques dealer fed her mother a line about how it had come to him under mysterious circumstances.
"They say it's still haunted by restless spirits. But perhaps you and your sister could tame it?" he'd said with over-the-top flattery; naturally, her mother lapped it up, which resulted in her paying too much for the thing. Well, she'd make her mother's mistake pay off for her now.
The hostess races for the hall closet and signals to the maid. "Do be a darling and get that down for me."
The maid retrieves the board with a shake of her head. "You oughtn't to be messing with this board, Miss."
"Don't be silly. That's primitive."
With a zippy twirl worthy of Clara Bow, the hostess bursts into the formal living room holding the Ouija board. "Who wants to commune with the spirits?" She giggles to show that she doesn't take it seriously in the least. After all, she's a thoroughly modern girl—a flapper, through and through.
The wilted girls spring up from their club chairs. "What've you got there? Is that a wee-gee board?" one of them asks.
"Isn't it darling? Mother bought it for me. It's supposed to be haunted," the hostess says and laughs. "Well, I don't believe that, naturally." The hostess places the heart-shaped planchette in the middle of the board. "Let's conjure up some fun, shall we?"
Everyone gathers 'round. George angles himself into the spot beside her. He's a Yale man and a junior. Many nights, she's lain awake in her bedroom, imagining her future with him. "Who wants to start?" she asks, positioning her fingers close to his.
"I will," a boy in a ridiculous fez announces. She can't remember his name, but she's heard he has a habit of inviting girls into his rumble seat for a petting party. He closes his eyes and places his fingers on the scryer. "A question for the ages: Is the lady to my right madly in love with me?"
The girls squeal and the boys laugh as the planchette slowly spells out Y-E-S.
"Liar!" the lady in question scolds the heart-shaped scrying piece with its clear glass oracle.
"Don't fight it, darling. I could be yours on the cheap," the boy says.
Now spirits are high; the questions grow bolder. They're drunk on gin and good times and the silly distraction of the fortune-telling. Every mornin', every evenin', ain't we got fun?
"Say, let's summon a real spirit," George challenges.
Be sure to check out some of the other great crossover YA novels from this year!
Yesterday, author Gabrielle Zevin told us about her dystopian teen novel, All These Things I've Done—which underwent a makeover between the hardcover and paperback editions. Today, we hear from the designers behind the makeover. Two Creative Directors worked on All These Things I’ve Done. Anne Diebel designed the hardcover jacket for Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers, and Rich Deas designed the paperback jacket for Square Fish.
Here, they tell us about their reasons for the change and the impact of book jackets.
Why did you decide to go in a drastically different direction with the paperback jacket art of All These Things I’ve Done—from a simple, subtle design, to something graphic, futuristic and urban?
Anne Diebel: Typically you approach the design of the hardcover version of a book differently than the paperback. They are directed at different audiences. The hardcover version comes out first and will be reviewed. The paperback is a more commercial sale with a lower price point. There is also an opportunity to rethink your approach when you design the paperback since it publishes later than the hardcover. It’s a second chance. Each of these reasons bore on the decision to redesign All These Things I’ve Done. It was fun to see my friend Rich Deas reinterpret the work. He has a beautiful sensibility.
Rich Deas: In general, I am a big fan of a well-concepted cover that captures the essence of a story in a simple, straightforward manner. So, I do very much like the original hardcover design. But, this approach can be fairly quiet in mass market. This is often the case for paperback covers but it gives us the opportunity to provide a new package for a wider, mass audience. We chose to visually capture the beauty and strength of the story’s main character, Anya Balanchine, and hint at the troubled world she lives in.
How much of an impact do you think cover art has on a book’s sales?
Anne Diebel: If a book sells well, the jacket had no impact at all. If it sells poorly, the jacket was all-important. Did that sound cynical? In fact, in either case, the jacket is critically important as it is the initial lure cast out to the book buyer. It’s the one and only first impression.
Rich Deas: I do think a cover is important to the sale of the book. The main goal is to truly capture the vibe of the book and relate it to its intended audience. There are many great cover designs out there so the cover really needs to stand out amongst the others. The cover in a sense is the advertisement for the story and we hope the cover attracts an audience.
What is your personal favorite cover you’ve ever designed? Favorite book jacket of 2011? Of all time?
Anne Diebel: It is very difficult to pick one favorite design of my own, as my memory in each case is colored by the amount of fun I had or did not have designing that book. Scrawl is one I did recently that I like quite a bit. There were so many wonderful designs done this year. I can take it down to two favorites. I remember being startled by how lovely and different Wither looked. The whole package was beautiful. Lizzy Bromley designed that one. I also loved the look of A Taste of Chlorine, which Colleen Venable designed. I can’t pick a favorite jacket design of all time that would be true every time you asked me. I just can’t.
Rich Deas: I honestly can never answer that question. I haven’t designed a cover I could call a “favorite.” I get excited about the process of reading a manuscript and trying to create a viable visual that represents the feel of the story and is interesting enough to attract readers. But once I’m done, I move on to the next title and get caught up with a new manuscript and the process starts all over—this is the endless cycle. But, at this early stage, before it is complete, it could be considered a favorite. Best cover of 2011: The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer. Two covers that I really admire are Violence by Slavoj Zizek, and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
In recent years, droves of adult authors have tried their hands at writing books for children and teens, with mixed results. (Let's just say that writing for kids without being condescending, preachy or boring is not as easy it looks.)
This fall, though, we're especially excited about one author making the move to kids' lit: Maile Meloy. Named one of the best young American novelists by Granta, Meloy has written two acclaimed short story collections (Half in Love and Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It) and two novels (Liars and Saints and A Family Daughter). Her first book for young readers, The Apothecary (for ages 10 and up), will be published by Putnam on October 4.
Meloy was encouraged to write the book by two writer-director friends, Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett (Nim's Island, The Wonder Years), who had the kernel of an idea for a movie about a mysterious apothecary but thought it should be a novel first. Meloy obliged, and the end result is a fascinating Cold War adventure story that should keep kids hooked from beginning to end.
Here's a preview from Penguin Young Readers:
One interesting addition to the story: Meloy's brother, Colin Meloy, the lead singer for the alternative rock band The Decemberists, is also publishing his first children's book soon. Wildwood, an epic fantasy set in a strange forest, is due out August 30, which gives the younger brother a headstart in the sibling rivalry department.
Spoiled by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
Poppy • $17.99 • 9780316098250
On sale June 1, 2011
In Spoiled, we meet 16-year-old Molly Dix, a normal teenage girl living in suburban Indiana. Her life changes—literally overnight—when her single mother passes away and she discovers that her biological father is none other than world-famous movie star Brick Berlin. Molly moves to California to connect with her famous father and discovers that she has a half-sister, Brooke, who is the epitome of the spoiled, privileged Hollywood royalty the Fug Girls love to poke fun at. Take a peek at the scene when the girls first meet each other—and see if you can keep a straight face:
“You must be my new sister!”
A tall blonde with bouncing curls glided into the dining room, bringing with her the shortest skirt, longest legs, and tallest stilettos Molly had ever seen. It was Brooke Berlin in the flesh, showing off rather a lot of it.
“I’m so happy to meet you!” Brooke squealed, hugging her before Molly even had a chance to get out of her seat. “Welcome to our wonderful home!”
Brooke had her clasped so tight, she was practically lifting Molly out of her chair. Molly, taken aback, breathed in sharply and almost inhaled a chunk of Brooke’s hair.
“Brookie, it’s not polite to be this late,” Brick scolded.
“I know, Daddy, but Ari’s wardrobe malfunction wasn’t going to fix itself. I’m super sorry!”
Brooke dropped Molly and sailed over to her seat, shaking out her napkin with a wide smile that her suspiciously fawning Wikipedia page called “a beacon of hope for our future.” Molly tried not to stare, but it was difficult: Brooke may not have been truly beautiful, but she was so well groomed that you’d never notice. The dress was designer, the eyelashes were false, the hair was either abundantly natural or expensively synthetic, and the purse she’d brought to the table was a Chloé bag Molly knew wasn’t on sale yet to the great unwashed masses. Molly glanced at her own comfy hoodie and kicked herself for treating this like just another movie night.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid #5 (coming out on November 9) will be titled . . . The Ugly Truth:
Amulet Books, an imprint of Abrams, announced the book's title and released its cover today. The book's first printing will be an enormous 5 million copies (book #4, Dog Days, had a first printing of 4 million). Author Jeff Kinney has said this book is the "linchpin of the series." We'll have to wait a few more months to find out why.
In the meantime, read a hand-written (and illustrated) interview with Kinney or watch a trailer of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie. Also, did you know that Rodrick Rules, a movie based on book #2 in the Wimpy Kid series, is coming out on March 25, 2011?
Who's excited about this announcement?
Thanksgiving is nearly a week away, and if you know little ones who love to read, there are many picture books that will help them celebrate the holiday. A couple releases from this year include Jacqueline Jules’ Duck for Turkey Day and Laurie Friedman’s Thanksgiving Rules.
Duck for Turkey Day is about Tuyet, a Vietnamese-American girl in elementary school, who longs for her family to have a traditional Thanksgiving meal (instead, they eat duck). Tuyet ultimately learns that turkey is the least important part of Thanksgiving “as long as you have a good time with family and friends.”
Thanksgiving Rules is a hilarious guide to getting to the Thanksgiving buffet as fast as possible (“After you’re done cleaning, I’m sure you’ll want to EAT. But you can’t do that just yet. First, you have to greet.”)
Full reviews are below the jump, complete with a trailer of Duck for Turkey Day and a podcast with Laurie Friedman.
At BookPage, we have a copy of Thanksgiving Rules. We think a read-a-loud from Friedman’s book would make a great Thanksgiving Day activity, and we’ll choose a commenter at random to get their own copy.
For a chance to win, answer this question in the comments: What book are you thankful for? We'll announce a winner tomorrow afternoon.
The many ways of giving thanks
In these two Thanksgiving-themed picture books, children learn about multicultural holiday traditions, the rules for getting the most out of your meal and the most important Thanksgiving lesson of all: It’s who you spend it with that matters.
Duck for Turkey Day
By Jacqueline Jules
Albert Whitman & Company, $16.99, 32 pages, ages 4-8
The menu’s not important
From feasts on sitcoms to advertisements in magazines, the image of a “traditional” Thanksgiving meal is everywhere this time of year. There is no doubt about what that meal entails: dressing, cranberries, green beans, pumpkin pie – and most important of all, turkey.
But what if your family doesn’t eat turkey on Thanksgiving? Is it still Thanksgiving?
In Duck for Turkey Day, Jacqueline Jules thoughtfully addresses this topic by way of Tuyet, a young Vietnamese-American girl who is troubled by her family’s unconventional Thanksgiving menu. Tuyet has happily participated in all the requisite Thanksgiving school activities – learned about Pilgrims and Native Americans, made a turkey out of a pinecone – and she’s upset that her family’s tradition veers from the norm.
Tuyet nearly bursts into tears on her classroom’s “story rug” after the holiday weekend; she’s embarrassed to share that her family ate duck . . . that is, until she hears what her classmates had to eat: lamb, enchiladas, even tofu turkey. Tuyet’s teacher explains that turkey is the least important part of Thanksgiving, “as long as you have a good time with family and friends.”
Kathryn Miller’s colorful illustrations realistically portray Tuyet’s range of emotions as she grapples with being different on the most American of holidays. And Jules, who has written 14 children’s books, will convince any child that her family’s traditions have a place in our multicultural nation.
By Laurie Friedman
Carolrhoda Books, $16.95, 32 pages, ages 4-8
A kid’s guide to Thanksgiving
Percy Isaac Gifford, the precocious young narrator in Laurie Friedman’s Thanksgiving Rules, knows the secrets to stuffing yourself on Turkey Day: get dressed (in whatever clothes Mom wants); help clean up the house; be nice to your family . . . and then you get to eat! Percy explains these rules in hilarious, energetic rhymes (“After you’re done cleaning, I’m sure you’ll want to EAT. But you can’t do that just yet. First, you have to greet.”). Teresa Murfin’s wonderful illustrations of turkey, pie and Percy’s large family will keep any young reader alert as they bounce along to the story’s climax – the moment of approaching the Thanksgiving buffet.
For some, Thanksgiving has a reputation of being a tedious obligation filled with strained family reunions and mediocre mincemeat, but you wouldn’t know it from Friedman’s guide to enjoying the holiday. And although food is the main event for Percy Isaac Gifford, there are plenty of small lessons squeezed into this delicious story. Percy explains that appreciating your family – especially the ones who prepared your feast – is a “big deal.” Although he wants to give his family members a giant hug after the meal, Percy gives everyone a “light peck on the cheek” to prevent the overeaters from exploding – and shows us how fun it can be to give thanks with loved ones.
Watch the YouTube trailer of Duck for Turkey Day:
Listen to a podcast with Laurie Friedman, author of Thanksgiving Rules.
Related in BookPage: "A harvest of thankful books."
Over at A Fuse #8 Production, a reader poll ranks Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes as number 15 on a list of the Top 100 Picture Books of All Time.
We share the love for Henkes' naughty-but-lovable heroine, and have for quite a long time. Back in 1996, when Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse was first published, we interviewed Henkes about the book and his inspiration for the story. In a sequence of events that's still hard to believe, Henkes also describes how he made a trip to New York at the age of 19 and landed a book contract with Greenwillow on his second day in the city. Although there are thousands (and thousands) of book reviews and features in the BookPage.com archives, this interview remains one of our most-read articles, year in and year out. Which proves two things: there's no explaining the mysteries of web traffic, and very few book-related sites on the web offer the length and breadth of the BookPage archives. Try browsing through BookPage.com yourself (including the flip-through version of the current print edition) and stay tuned for the long-awaited and totally redesigned site that will put more book news and recommendations at your fingertips.
More on Kevin Henkes: When Lilly returned for her Big Day in 2006, readers learned more about the memorable mouse and her creator in this illustrated Q&A.