A couple of months ago I posted about the Baby-sitters Club prequel, and it was so much fun to read the comments. (“Oh my gosh, YES, I am excited,” wrote one reader. Another confessed to owning 100+ BSC books.)
Well, now I am happy to say (brag) that I spoke with Ann M. Martin herself on Tuesday. The BSC prequel, The Summer Before, will be available in stores two weeks from today, and on that date my interview will also be posted on BookPage.com.
Until then, I’ll tease you with a few tidbits:
The Baby-sitters Club. I’m proud to say it was totally my idea, even though the four of us worked it out together. “Us” is Mary Anne Spier, Claudia Kishi, Stacey McGill, and me—Kristy Thomas. But that was at the beginning of seventh grade, after the summer in which my friendship with Claudia nearly fell apart, Mary Anne began to find out who she was, Claudia experienced her first love, and an unhappy girl left New York City and moved to our town. It was quite a summer.
Dav Pilkey has agreed to write four new installments in the Captain Underpants series—the first new books since 2006. The first one’s called The Adventures of Ook and Gluk, Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future and will be published on August 10.
Although parents sometimes complain about the potty humor in the books—in 2002, Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants was removed from an elementary school in North Dakota—I personally know several little boys who will be thrilled with this news. (The entire series has 45 million copies in print, and The Adventures of Ook and Gluk will have a print run of 1 million.)
Here’s what Pilkey has to say on his return:
“I think fans of Captain Underpants will be very happy with this new book. It has all of the action, laffs and ridiculousness that kids love, plus all the unapologetic irreverence and questionable potty humor that grumpy curmudgeons love to complain about. It’s got something for everybody!”
Related in BookPage: Read a review of Captain Underpants and the Invasion of the Incredibly Naughty Cafeteria Ladies from Outer Space.
The movie version of Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love, starring Julia Roberts, Gabriel Bardem and James Franco, has been the subject of much discussion since its announcement. Now the trailer has been released. The tinkly strummy background music and slightly groan-worthy dialogue -- "I used to have this appetite for my life, and it is just gone" -- didn't convince me that the film will be worth seeing, although the scenery, wine and food look amazing, but then I didn't like the book much, either. And memoirs-turned-film are often problematic; see the critiques of the Julie Powell portions of Julie & Julia for a refresher in how difficult it is for a memoirist's voice to carry over into a film. Guess we'll see how it all pans out in August. What do you think of the trailer?
Never fear, Dimsy's Top Period Dramas is here! (Well, there. At the link.)
This site is a must-visit for people like me who never remember to watch Masterpiece Theater (or any other program) when it actually airs. Dimsy scours the 'net for links to productions of classic novels, and posts them on her blog. Want to watch the recent adaptation of North & South? (Hint: the answer is yes.) She's got it. Just about every Jane Austen film is also available; there's plenty of Dickens and you can also find two versions of War & Peace. Though there's the occasional broken link due to copyright issues, overall it's a reliable resource—and a great place to visit on a rainy day.
The 2010 Orange Prize for Fiction longlist was announced today. This British award is given to the best novel written by a woman in English and published in the UK in a given year. Since many past winners (and nominees) rank among my favorite books (Ann Patchett's Bel Canto; Valerie Martin's Property; Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin), I always look forward to its announcement.
Below is this year's longlist, in alphabetical order by author. Given the disjunct between US/UK pub dates, some appeared here quite some time ago while others haven't yet made it to US shores. (This is where the Kindle might come in handy—at least two of the otherwise unavailable books are available electronically to US readers.) It's a diverse group, including four Americans, 13 Brits, one Moroccan and a New Zealander. Seven of the nominees are first-time novelists.
Will Hilary Mantel cart off yet another literary prize for Wolf Hall? Will Andrea Levy, the only previous Orange winner on the list, take it home for the second time? We'll find out in June! Linked titles will take you to BookPage reviews.
Christian publisher Tyndale House announced today that they will publish Drew Brees’ memoir, Coming Back Stronger: Unleashing the Hidden Power of Adversity. Brees is, of course, the quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, and MVP of Super Bowl XLIV. He’s also beloved in New Orleans, where he and his wife started a foundation.
The press release doesn’t shy away from comparing Brees’ story to that of the Saints, and New Orleans:
When a potentially career-ending shoulder injury left quarterback Drew Brees without a team, the NFL wondered, would Brees ever come back? When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, leaving 85 percent of the city under water, many wondered, would the city ever come back? And when their stadium was transformed into a make-shift refugee camp, forcing the Saints to play their entire 2005 season on the road, people questioned, would the team ever come back?
Chris Fabry (ghostwriter of Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel’s The Winners Manual) will contribute. What do you think, football fans? Will Brees’ memoir be a must-read, or cheesy? The book will hit stores July 6.
The Swimming Pool by Holly LeCraw
Doubleday, April 6, 2010
I’m pleased to say The Swimming Pool has lived up to its own hype—and then some. It’s the tangled story of two families linked forever by a love affair and a shocking murder. Marcella Atkinson fell in love with her summer neighbor, Cecil McClatchey, but before their relationship could even get off the ground, his wife was murdered. Seven years later, Marcella’s daughter is hired to nanny for Cecil’s daughter; Cecil is now dead, but his grown children are spending the summer at the family’s Cape house. And then his handsome son, Jed, finds an old swimsuit in his father’s closet, and begins to connect the dots between his father’s affair, his mother’s death and this mysterious older woman, Marcella.
At the bottom of the closet, among the dust bunnies, was a half-crushed shirt box. It felt light, and he opened it expecting to find nothing, or, at most, some old, ill-considered birthday gift. But instead, neatly folded, there was a woman’s bathing suit.
He felt he was seeing it not only with his eyes but with his whole body. A one-piece, plunging neckline, dark blue with vertical white stripes. Almost clownish—but then he lifted it out of the box and held it up by the straps. Yes. He remembered.
How old had be been?—that afternoon by the pool, their pool, when Marcella Atkinson had been stretched out in a lounge chair, alone at the corner of their patio? She had seemed separated from the rest of them, from the party that was going on, not only by a few feet that the chair was pulled but also by her stillness and, Jed had sensed, her sadness. And her beauty. Her perfect legs and olive skin and dark upswept hair had not seemed to belong with the cheerful Yankees in their madras shorts and flowered dresses, grilling fat American burgers and drinking gin and tonics.
We all know that Jodi Picoult writes about complex subjects that affect families: death, disease, disability.
In a recent interview with Forbes, the author talks about the subject for her next book: gay rights. She said:
What's really cool is that I do believe I might be the first mainstream writer to attack this issue, gay rights. That's amazing me to me, but I'm glad I'm doing it. There's a real sense that gay rights is a political issue and not a personal one. I think it's about people, which is why I want to write the book.
In an interview with GLAAD, she elaborated on the plot. It’s the story of a lesbian couple’s legal battle for the right to start a family, a topic with personal significance for Picoult, since her teenage son recently came out.
It’s true that gay rights and gay characters are mostly absent from mainstream fiction. (Alexander McCall Smith has announced that he will support gay rights by introducing homosexual characters into his novels, and David Levithan has addressed gay relationships in YA lit—but can you think of many other authors who write about characters who are gay?) I look forward to Picoult's new book—plus, I’m intrigued by the CD.
Are there other topics you’d like to see Picoult address?
It's March 17, and you know what that means: those who aren't wearing green, prepare to be pinched! If you've chosen not to venture out in search of green beer tonight, we've come up with some suggested reading in several categories that will help you celebrate the Irish spirit.
Nonfiction: BookPage columnist Robert Weibezahl highly recommends At the Edge of Ireland, David Yeardon's charming travelogue.
Fiction: Lots to mention here! Have you read Roddy Doyle yet? Yes? Then you'll have to wait for his next novel to come out in April. Everyone else, try Oh, Play That Thing for a fiery take on the Irish-American experience. Mary Pat Kelly's Galway Bay is another epic that brings the Irish immigrants' tale to life—it was inspired by her own family history. And we can't ignore Maeve Binchy, Alice McDermott and John Banville.
Or go off the beaten path with a very Irish novel that happens to be written by a Dane, Christopher Moerk: Darling Jim is his deliciously creepy American debut. Paul Murray's hilarious An Evening of Long Goodbyes is another standout. And if chick lit is more your thing, don't miss Cecelia Ahern's sparkling stories.
Children's Books: Eoin Colfer is probably the best-known Irish children's author; his Artemis Fowl series has been loved by millions.
Cooking: The New Irish Table by Margaret M. Johnson will give you ideas for tonight's feast.
What's your favorite book with an Irish connection?
An amusing—and a little too close to home—concept is making the rounds among book reviewers today: Book Review Bingo. Michelle Kerns, a literary columnist on Examiner.com, created a list of reviewer clichés, then plugged them into bingo cards. (She writes, “Book reviews that use clichés mean nothing, say nothing, and tell the reader nothing. They're like eating a cream puff when what you really want is prime rib—they're unsatisfying and, ultimately, useless.”)
Here’s one of the cards:
What do you say, book bloggers? Is it unforgiveable to use the word “powerful” in a review? Are you guilty of calling a book a “tour de force?” I’ll go ahead and confess to my own guilt; my most recent feature for BookPage would give a Bingo player several checks (come on—it was epic!).
For more on the subject, check out Salon, GalleyCat and The Boston Globe. Even Ron Charles at The Washington Post is tweeting about Book Review Bingo. Do you have any clichés to add to the list? My vote’s for “compulsively” readable.