Believe it or not, it's the first day of spring! Raise your hand if you're sick of gray days and ice—or if you're pretty sure the spring equinox is a big fat liar (looking at you, NYC). Littlest readers can celebrate the return of spring (or dream of it) with a fresh crop of picture books:
Shawn Sheehy sneaks plenty of fun facts into his outstanding new pop-up book, Welcome to the Neighborwood. Each spread reveals the home of a different creature, from spiders to hummingbirds. I love how this delicate paper craftsmanship mirrors the intricacy and fragility of nature, encouraging little ones to both explore and respect their environment.
For another unique offering that gets up close and personal with nature, April Pulley Sayre's Raindrops Roll zooms in on the magic of rain with a captivating balance of science and poetry. Seven Impossible Things blogger Julie Danielson shares a few spreads from the book on her blog here.
The title of Kadir Nelson's If You Plant a Seed recalls the slippery-slope hijinks of a certain demanding mouse and his cookie (or moose and muffin, if you prefer), and the rabbit and mouse at the beginning of this gorgeous book certainly need to learn some manners—but fortunately they do, and their gardening efforts become a sweet allegory for the importance of kindness and sustainability.
You Nest Here with Me, written by Jane Yolen and her daughter and fellow birder, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, and illustrated by Melissa Sweet, is a classic bedtime book—but with so many baby birds tucked into their little homes, it's also a classic springtime book.
Carin Bramsen's Just a Duck? is on this list simply because of its hyper-vibrant illustrations. It's a story of unlikely best friends who learn to appreciate each other's unique strengths, but there's something about the colors, textures and, most of all, hilarious expressions that reminds me of all the best parts of spring.
Finally, the bears have it in two exceptional new picture books: The magical paper collages in Finding Spring by Carin Berger capture just how hard it is to wait for new seasons; and The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach is irresistibly full of mischief and bright, sunny adventures.
Want even more? Check these out at your local library:
You can view all our children's picture book coverage here.
Here's something that's definitely not normal: a serial killer as a sort of bumbling hero. Maybe "hero" is too strong, but the unnamed protagonist in British author Cameron's debut is, outside of kidnapping and murdering girls, darkly funny and even likable. His lifelong killing spree kicked off when he took out his bad dad, and now he's moved on to prostitutes and other girls, sometimes killing them and burying them in the woods, sometimes keeping them in a cage on his property. Add in some real, non-sociopathic feelings about a few of his victims, plus cops circling about a disappeared hooker, and you've got one strange story on your hands.
Erica regarded her new cellmate with a mixture of elation and disdain. Whilst a problem shared is a problem halved, she clearly wasn't overjoyed at the prospect of sharing hers with a bleeding, screeching harridan.
The hooker had told me that her name was Kerry. Then again, she'd told me that she was clean in every respect, where both her profession and her trackmarks suggested otherwise.
I'd picked her up a mile from Jeremy's house on a foolish and immediately regrettable impulse fueled by raw adrenaline and the sheer bloody-minded need to catch something, so to speak. She'd directed me to a remote riverside picnic area on the south side of the city, and had been only too eager to jump into the back of the van, the false promise of mattresses and pillows offering a welcome relief from the repeated prod of a gearlever in the sternum.
Until that point, this, in a nutshell, was the reason I never interfere with ladies of the night: it's just too damn easy. It's a game for impotents and bed-wetters. These women queue up to get in the car with you, for Christ's sake. They actually expect you to take them somewhere dark. That they exercise free will in putting themselves in harm's way only makes obligingly slaughtering them all the more cowardly.
What are you reading?
It's been 10 years since the publication of Boy Proof, Cecil Castellucci's groundbreaking young adult debut, now one of Time magazine's 100 Best Young Adult Books of All Time. Ten years ago, sci-fi fans—especially young females—felt like they could let their geek flags fly after reading about Egg, who styles herself after the heroine of her favorite sci-fi movie, Terminal Earth, by dressing all in white, shaving her head and coloring her eyebrows. She's got her shields up—especially against boys. But then she meets Max.
Castellucci looks back on the book that defined her as an author and encouraged nerdy girls to stay weird while finding their courage:
It begins at a bookstore: one of my favorite indie bookstores in Los Angeles, Skylight Books. When I was first trying to sell my first book and dreaming of becoming an author, I would walk to the store, which is funny because nobody walks in Los Angeles. I went there to haunt the shelves, paw the books and dream that maybe one day I would be an actual author. The staff was friendly and encouraging. They let me stay for hours.
In those early years of being a dreamer, they asked me to help out at inventory. I came in to support, but also needing the grocery money to help clean the store and count and shelve the books. I still do inventory with them every year—15 years and counting. I had written two novels and a picture book that had not sold. I was blue. And poor. And dreaming. Somewhere in fiction while I was dusting and lamenting my rejections both by the book industry and gentleman suitors. Then Steven Salardino, the manager of the bookstore and now a dear friend, turned to me and said, “You should write a book called Boy Proof and the boy should be named Max.” Instead of shrugging him off, or throwing a dust rag at him, I said, “OK,” and set about to do it.
The title had struck me deep in my core. And as a nerdy girl myself, I had felt like that growing up and wanted to write a book about a girl who was a true nerd and the star of the book, not the sidekick or the best friend. A girl who, like me felt a little boy proof. I wanted to write the book that I had needed and wasn’t there when I was growing up geek. I had a few loose threads in my head that I thought I could pull on to make a story.
While time coding for my friends production transcript company, I had seen footage of a girl who dressed up as Trinity from the Matrix movies. To give myself swaths of time to write, I was an extra in movies and once got a call to interview to be a child ape on Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes. I was not chosen to be an ape. (Tim Burton’s loss, to be sure!) The interview was at special effects make-up artist Rick Baker's studio, which was truly inspiring. Living in Hollywood with all of this buzz of making it and reinvention made me think to back to when I was in high school. I had a great friend whose mother, a famous singer and actress, was making her big comeback, and there was a boy I was too shy to figure out how to make my boyfriend who sat next to me in math class. His name was not Max, but the shadow memory of him was a place to start.
I put those things together to write a book called Boy Proof about a girl named Egg who dressed as the main character of her favorite sci-fi movie. Who loved post-apocalyptic movies and read comic books. Who felt uncomfortable around the new boy. Whose dad was a special effects make-up artist. Whose mom was a TV star making a comeback. A nerdy girl who lets down her guard to let love in.
It was the first novel I sold, and it was born in a bookstore.
And to this day, I always ask Steven to help me title my novels.
Author photo credit Eric Charles.
Fans of best-selling author C.J. Box expect a lot of action and suspense, delivered in clear prose and paced expertly. The author has won a number of awards for his satisfying high-country thrillers, including the Edgar for Best Novel (Blue Heaven, 2009), but his 15th Joe Pickett novel, Endangered, is a cut above. It's darker, tighter and proof that even though Box's a seasoned thriller writer, he's still a writer to watch.
Joe is out surveying a field of massacred, engangered sage grouse when he gets a call about a woman found in a ditch. She's alive, but badly beaten. The victim is Joe's adopted daughter, April, who ran off with a rodeo rider in Stone Cold. Joe's ready to hunt down the rider—until an anonymous tip points Joe toward survivalist Tilden Cudmore as April’s abductor. All this is going down when Joe's old pal Nate Romanowski, who has just been released from prison, is found dead. And the twists just keep coming.
Blunt force trauma.
The very words were brutal in and of themselves, Joe thought as he and Marybeth trailed April's gurney down the hallway. He could hear the helicopter approaching outside, hovering over the helipad on the roof of the hospital.
April was bundled up and he couldn't see her face. He wasn't sure he wanted to. Joe was grateful Marybeth had positively identified her earlier.
He was unnerved by the number of suspended plastic packets that dripped fluids into tubes that snaked beneath the sheets. An orderly rolled a monitor on wheels alongside the gurney. Her body looked small and frail beneath the covers, and she didn't respond when the orderlies secured her to the gurney with straps.
Joe reached down and squeezed her hand through the blankets. It was supple, but there was no pressure back.
"Let me know how it goes," Joe said to Marybeth, raising his voice so as to be heard over the wash of the rotors.
"Of course," she said, pulling him close one last time before she left. Her eyes glistened with tears.
Joe watched as the gurney was hoisted into the helicopter. A crew member reached down from the hatch and helped Marybeth step up inside. Seconds, later, the door was secured and the helicopter lifted.
Joe clamped his hat tight on his head with his right hand and silently asked God to save April, because she'd suffered enough in her short life, and to give Marybeth the strength to carry on.
What are you reading?
BookPage is thrilled to reveal the cover for The Day the Crayons Came Home, the sequel to the best-selling The Day the Crayons Quit, written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers! It will be released this August from Philomel. Click to view larger.
But what have those high-maintenance crayons been up to? We chatted with Jeffers for the release of The Day the Crayons Quit, so for this new book, we wanted to hear from author Drew Daywalt:
Author Drew Daywalt
BookPage: What originally inspired you to share the plight of these grumbling crayons?
Daywalt: It wasn’t really by choice. My crayons told me that if I didn’t bring their plight to the public eye, something terrible might happen to me. What would you do? Like Duncan, I complied. This conspiracy of silence has to end. These little wax cylinders are terrors and the world needs to know!
Last time we checked in on the crayons, they were pretty ticked off, though Duncan did make a concerted effort to honor their many demands. Why are they coming back in this sequel? What do they want this time?
Money. Cold hard cash. They want the Benjamins and they aren’t afraid to use violence to get them. NO, I’M JUST KIDDING! Seriously though . . . poor Duncan. He finally gets one group of crayons to chill out and a whole NEW group shows up griping at him.
In The Day the Crayons Came Home, it’s a whole new batch of crayons, and their complaints are about how Duncan has lost, broken or neglected them. We know all these crayons already, because we're all kind of Duncan. They’re all the ones we melted, broke, lost or otherwise treated crappily when we were kids. (Is crappily a word? Oh man, did I just invent a word? I did! Yes! You’re WELCOME, Webster!) But in all seriousness, what I think makes the new book really special is that it’s a story about homecoming and acceptance no matter what . . . but with lots of complaining.
Illustrator Oliver Jeffers
Which crayon do you most empathize with?
In the new book? I’m Neon Red Crayon. Yeah. For sure. He’s kind of a lovable goof who has no idea where he is or where he’s going, but he’s really enjoying the ride. Or . . . I might be Glow-in-the-Dark Crayon. He draws scary things that then totally freak him out when it’s dark. Also kind of an idiot. Hmmm . . . I’m seeing a pattern here in myself.
What’s your favorite part about working with Jeffers?
He smells nice. Actually, It’s the sense of fun when we’re working. A lot of what Oliver and I do is try to make each other laugh. He also has a cool Irish brogue, which makes me 25% cooler just by standing next to him when he talks. What I bring to the table is that I have large strong shoulders and I could easily carry him if I ever needed to rescue him from, like, a burning building or something.
What would you like kids to remember next time they pick up their crayons?
Not to do drugs.
The animated film rights for The Day the Crayons Quit were purchased by Universal Pictures last year. Hooray for crayons!
Till now, Judith Flanders has confined herself solely to nonfiction as one of the foremost social historians of the Victorian era and the best-selling author of The Invention of Murder and The Victorian City. With her debut crime novel, Flanders takes on the cutthroat publishing industry and spices it up with a bit of that Victorian-style macabre.
Chosen by librarians for the February 2015 Library Reads list, A Murder of Magpies is a darkly funny romp that takes readers between London and Paris in pursuit of a potentially libelous manuscript.
But how did Flanders make the leap from Victorian crime to contemporary crime fiction? As she reveals in a guest blog post, it's just more fun. (And now we know never to get on Flanders' bad side . . .)
Fiction has some definite advantages over nonfiction. I’ve been writing nonfiction for nearly 20 years now, specializing in Victorian Britain. I truly can’t complain: It’s a great job. As with every job, though, there are some days that are just a slog. At one point I was writing about a fire along the river Thames in 1861, and I wanted to incorporate an eyewitness’ description of seeing the fire from a train. To do that, I needed to say where his train was heading. It took me nearly a week in the library to find that out. Even though it was one of those boring little details that nobody reading my book would care about, still, I had to get it right.
If I had been writing a novel, I grumped to myself, I could have just made it up. And then I bumped into an ex-colleague in the library, someone I’d worked with years before. And I remembered how much I disliked her. (The feeling, I believe, is mutual.) So, to relieve the boredom of researching trains, I began to imagine ways of killing her. From making up train stations, to making up murder methods, I moved on to just making things up.
And before I knew it, I’d started to write a crime novel. Sam Clair is an editor in a publishing house. I worked in publishing for 17 years, and publishing is full of people that belong in a novel. The 20-something editor who thinks he knows everything? Check. The last remaining Goth in Britain, who loves commercial women’s fiction? Double-check. And of course then there’s the general murder and mayhem. After all, there isn’t an author alive who hasn’t wanted to murder her editor, and vice-versa.
With my nonfiction hat on, I wrote a book on 19th-century murder and how real-life crimes were used for entertainment purposes: Where today we have films about the Boston strangler or whatever, they had plays and novels and even puppet shows. What struck me was that real-life murder was, on the whole, not very interesting. Thug A hits Thug B over the head, fighting over a few pounds. Thug B dies. That was the pattern, over and over.
Crime was dull. Crime fiction, however, now that was fabulous. From Dickens to Dracula, authors everywhere found themselves invigorated by these very ordinary, very ugly events. They took the dull stuff—Thug A, a railway station, a fire—and turned it into magic.
Publishing can be dull, too. Like a lot of glamorous jobs, on a day-to-day level it’s often just paperwork: admin and schedules and budgets. But if you make things up, you can liberate the routine, turn it into magic, too.
So I decided that I’d give myself a break from researching train stations, or even Thugs A and B. Instead I would take the ridiculousness that is publishing, and the magic that is making things up, and see what happened.
Thank you so much, Judith! Readers, A Murder of Magpies goes on sale tomorrow!
Judith Flanders author photo by Clive Barda.
It's one of my favorite—and most fascinating—times of year: The days and weeks following the American Library Association's announcement of the winners of the Youth Media Awards, including the Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, Newbery and Printz awards, are filled with as much joy as debate. We all have our favorite children's and YA books of the year (you can view the BookPage Best Children's and YA Books of 2014 here). Sometimes your favorites don't get the recognition you hoped for, and sometimes they do. And sometimes it seems like the award committee likes to test our understanding of the awards just because they can.
But putting all that aside, we love catching up with the winners of these awards, so we spoke with Caldecott winner Dan Santat, Newbery winner Kwame Alexander and Printz winner Jandy Nelson about what it's like to be recognized as the best in children's and young adult literature.
"It was a dream come true. A dream I never thought I would ever achieve."
"Am I delirious? Dreaming? Did he just really say 'Medal'? And then, like the clouds shifting to reveal the golden sun, my life changed, a new normal ablaze."
"I love being inside the minds/hearts of my teen narrators, love the urgency of the teen experience, that period of time when everything is so new, so dramatic, so emotional, so confusing, so funny, so raw, so honest, so everything."
Today the American Library Association (ALA) announced the top books for children and young adults, including the Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, Newbery and Printz awards, with several of the BookPage Best Children's and YA Books of 2014 receiving well-earned nods.
Standouts include Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, which was our favorite to win the Newbery Medal but picked up a Newbery Honor, a Sibert Honor and the Coretta Scott King Author Book Award. The Right Word by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet also received recognition as the Sibert Award winner as well as a Caldecott Honor. This One Summer's Printz Honor came as no surprise, but we were tickled to discover that it also garnered a Caldecott Honor. And congratulations to Sharon Draper, who won the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults!
Read on for all the winners:
NEWBERY: The Crossover by Kwame Alexander (HMH)
Newbery Honor Books:
CALDECOTT: The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat (Little, Brown)
Caldecott Honor Books:
CORETTA SCOTT KING AUTHOR BOOK AWARD: Jacqueline Woodson for Brown Girl Dreaming (Nancy Paulsen)
King Author Honor Books:
CORETTA SCOTT KING ILLUSTRATOR BOOK AWARD: Christopher Myers for Firebird, written by Misty Copeland (Putnam)
King Illustrator Honor Books:
CORETTA SCOTT KING/JOHN STEPTOE NEW TALENT AUTHOR AWARD: When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum)
PRINTZ: I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (Dial)
Printz Honor Books:
SIBERT AWARD for most distinguished informational book for children: The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet (Eerdmans)
Sibert Honor Books:
THEODOR SEUSS GEISEL AWARD for distinguished beginning reader book: You Are (Not) Small by Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant (Two Lions)
Geisel Honor Books:
MORRIS AWARD for first-time YA author: Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero (Cinco Puntos)
Click here to view all the winners, including the Alex Awards (the 10 best adult books that appeal to teen audiences), the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, the Stonewall Book Award (books of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience), the Pura Belpre Awards for Latino authors and illustrators and more.
Did your favorite children's or YA book pick up an award this year?
A publication date has finally been set for the authorized sequel to the late Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy. Journalist Mikael Blomqvist and hacker Lisbeth Salander return in That Which Does Not Kill, to be released in at least 35 countries on August 27, 2015, the Guardian reports.
First announced in 2013, the 500-page volume was completed in November by Swedish journalist and author David Lagercrantz.
It will be published by Knopf in North America under a different title. We're guessing it will continue with The Girl ________ format consistent with all the English titles, and the publisher promises it will "have at least one four-letter word." (Which, based on some BookPage readers' responses to the title of Jens Lapidus' 2013 thriller, will cause NO PROBLEMS AT ALL.) The cover will be designed by Peter Mendelsund.
At the time of the author's death of a heart attack in 2004, Larsson left behind an uncompleted manuscript for a fifth volume in a conceived 10-book series. This new book will introduce "some new characters, including several high profile Americans (one a security manager from the NSA) and a Swedish professor of computer science from Silicon Valley."
Speaking for the Stieg Larsson estate, Joakim and Erland Larsson (Stieg's brother and father) commented:
"By letting David Lagercrantz write his own Millennium novel we keep the characters and the universe Stieg Larsson created alive. This new work hews closely to the first three Millennium novels and is faithful to those characters; it is wholly new and contemporary—the perfect way for readers to resume their acquaintance with Lisbeth and Mikael."
The series has sold more than 80 million copies worldwide and seen multiple film adaptations. As for this new book, Swedish publisher Nordstedts expects a "global splash" to rival The Da Vinci Code.
If you need any proof that books aren't dead, just look to the children's and young adult industry, which continues to grow and dominate bestseller charts for adults and young readers alike.
To celebrate this "golden age" of children's and YA books, Time Magazine has compiled a list of all-time classics, both old and new. The children's list includes favorites such as The Giving Tree and Make Way for Ducklings, and my own personal favorite, Miss Rumphius. Check out the full list of 100 here, and vote for your favorite.
The young adult list is a little . . . let's say confusing, and we're not the only ones who feel this way. Books like Wonder—which is middle grade, not young adult—share space with A Monster Calls, and it's almost unfathomable to see Twilight and To Kill a Mockingbird on the same list. See the full 100 here.
Readers, what do you think?