Here's some timely news as we approach Halloween: Mary Downing Hahn's spooky 1980s classic, Wait Till Helen Comes, is heading to the big screen. The story of two fractious stepsisters, Molly and Heather, who move to an isolated old home where one of them is befriended by a ghost is deliciously creepy, and contains real emotional heart. Eight-year-old me must have read this book a dozen times—each time, I was scared by but also sorry for Helen, whose loneliness allows her to connect to the similarly isolated and unhappy Heather. Wait Till Helen Comes is a true classic—it's been in print since it was first published in 1986—and Hahn is still writing today.
The sisters will be played by real-life sisters Isabelle (Mama) and Sophie (The Book Thief) Nelisse, and Maria Bello has been cast as the mother/stepmother.
In spite of the fact that it's directed by Jennifer Love Hewitt, I'm still hoping this adaptation turns out better than the one for another of my childhood favorites, Betty Ren Wright's The Dollhouse Murders (aka Secrets in the Attic). Now if someone will just make a movie of Christopher Pike's Remember Me, Zilpha Keatley Snyder's Cupid series or some of Richard Peck's Blossom Culp novels, I can relive my childhood ghost story addiction in full . . .
What's your favorite ghost story?
A very sad day indeed: Walter Dean Myers died yesterday at the age of 76 following a brief illness, according to the Children's Book Council.
Myers was and will continue to be an icon in children's literature. He received two Newbery Honors, six Coretta Scott King Awards and Honors, the first-ever Michael L. Printz Award and the first Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement. In 2012 he was appointed the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and served for two years. Over the course of his 45-year career, he authored more than 100 books, both fiction and nonfiction, poetry and prose.
Richard Robinson, Chairman, President and CEO of Scholastic, shared some kind words:
“Walter Dean Myers changed the face of children’s literature by representing the diversity of the children of our nation in his award-winning books. He was a deeply authentic person and writer who urged other authors, editors and publishers not only to make sure every child could find him or herself in a book, but also to tell compelling and challenging stories that would inspire children to reach their full potential. My favorite quote from Walter is a clarion call to embrace the power of books to inform and transform our lives – he said, ‘Once I began to read, I began to exist.’ He will be missed by us all.”
Look back through our coverage of some of our favorites. Myers will certainly be missed.
"Endlessly invent yourself," Jack Gantos tells children in our September 2007 Meet the Illustrator interview, which I recently rediscovered while digging through the BookPage archives.
How true, Mr. Gantos—and quite relevant to your own life! Coming June 14 from Macmillan Children's, Gantos' popular Joey Pigza series is getting a major redesign with artwork by Lane Smith. Smith is the illustrator behind several Caldecott Honor-winning picture books, including The Stinky Cheese Man and Grandpa Green.
The Joey Pigza series, which stars a troubled young boy with ADHD, includes four titles. The first, Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, was a 1998 National Book Award Finalist for Young People's Literature. Joey Pigza Loses Control was a 2001 Newbery Honor Book. The next two titles were What Would Joey Pigza Do? and I Am Not Joey Pigza.
Check out the new looks:
The twists and riffs of an Eoin Colfer story combined with the gleeful quirkiness of Oliver Jeffers' illustrations? That's what I call an unbeatable team. Their first-ever picture book collaboration, Imaginary Fred, is coming this fall from HarperCollins.
Here's what we've got to look forward to:
Imaginary Fred is a unique take on the concept of imaginary friends. It’s the story of two little boys and their shared love of movies, music, and comic books. It is about how a little bit of electricity, a little bit of luck, and a little bit of magic can spark a friendship like no other. The perfect chemistry between Eoin Colfer’s text and Oliver Jeffers’s artwork will make for a treasured new picture book.
The publisher's already calling it an "instant children's classic," "genius" and "the stuff of dreams." It's way too soon to be throwing labels like that around, but we're nevertheless excited to see what fun this duo whips up.
Books published posthumously are so bittersweet. They're such a treasure, because we get to enjoy more of our favorite writer's work, but they're such a tragedy, because we have no way to share our delight (or, perhaps, displeasure) with the author.
But I'm going to go with "treasure" when it comes to two books coming in April, when middle grade readers can enjoy new books from two celebrated children's book authors, published posthumously: Ice Whale by Jean Craighead George and The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones. Both books were left unfinished at the time of the author's death and were completed by talented family members.
Coming April 3 from Penguin, Ice Whale (ages 9 to 11) was Jean Craighead George's final novel and was completed by her children, Craig and Twig, after her passing in 2012. George, the author of more than 100 books, won the 1972 Newbery Medal for Julie of the Wolves and a 1959 Newbery Honor for My Side of the Mountain.
Ice Whale is yet another epic nature adventure set in northern Alaska, but this one unfolds with a surprising twist: It alternates between voices of Eskimos and a bowhead whale, and chapters featuring the whale include squiggly symbols, invented by George to represent whale sounds.
Ice Whale also has some especially sweet acknowledgements from Craig and Twig:
"We especially thank our mother, Jean, for leaving us with this "homework assignment," which pulled us all together after she died."
Dianna Wynne Jones, author of more than 40 fantasy novels, including Howl's Moving Castle and the Chrestomanci series, died in 2011 before she could finish The Islands of Chaldea (ages 10 and up). Jones' sister, novelist and actress Urusla Jones, completed the unfinished manuscript, which will be published April 22 by Greenwillow Books. This standalone fantasy has all the makings of a classic Jones novel. The publisher shares more:
"Aileen comes from a long line of magic makers, and her Aunt Beck is the most powerful magician on Skarr. But even though she is old enough, Aileen's magic has yet to reveal itself. When Aileen is sent over the sea on a mission for the King, she worries that she'll be useless and in the way. A powerful (but mostly invisible) cat changes all of that—and with every obstacle Aileen faces, she becomes stronger and more confident and her magic blooms."
Ice Whale and The Islands of Chaldea definitely sound like two treasures.
• Publishers Weekly asked 20 children's books editors to share some behind-the-scenes stories about their experiences editing some true classics, including The Napping House and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.
• On Buzzfeed, a whole slew of authors offer up advice on how they combat writer's block and how they got their first books published.
• As you've likely heard by now, James McBride's National Book Award win for The Good Lord Bird was a surprise to many. Vulture published this dishy history of the ups and downs of the award's 64-year history.
• We're guessing you probably don't need any encouragement, or anything, but Qwiklit has put together a really fun list of 50 Reasons You Should Be a Bookworm.
• Tuesday, April 2, was International Children's Books Day, which the folks at Flavorwire commemorated with a list of 10 Celebrities' Favorite Children's Books.
• Raise your hand if you can relate to this simple but clever illustration of the writing process posted over on Picador's blog.
• Our reviewer describes Jill McCorkle's Life After Life as a "beautifully written, perceptive and poignant novel that will linger in readers’ minds for a long while." McCorkle's publisher, Algonquin, is giving away 30 signed copies of the book. Enter here to win.
• The New York Review of Books reports on the April 18 launch of the awe-inspiring Digital Public Library of America, which aims to be "a distributed system of electronic content that will make the holdings of public and research libraries, archives, museums, and historical societies available, effortlessly and free of charge, to readers located at every connecting point of the Web." That's one library we can't wait to visit.
• We're saddened by the news of Roger Ebert's death, which has us reminiscing about being on the receiving end of his illustrious "thumbs up."
• Could there be a more heavenly combination than books and cocktails? Reading through Flavorwire's list of 15 book-filled bars resulted in the immediate lengthening of our travel destination wish list.
• Speaking of heaven, we just heard about Out of Print, a new documentary about books screening later this month at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. Our fingers are crossed that it gets picked up for distribution so that it lands in one of our theaters soon.
• In the meantime, we'll settle for Book Riot's delightful "six-pack" of author interviews from The Colbert Report.
• Finally, we were excited to learn that on April 11 People.com will be hosting an online chat with Khaled Hosseini to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the publication of The Kite Runner. Get all of the details here.
Have I mentioned how much I love the children's author Rebecca Stead, winner of the 2010 Newbery Medal for When You Reach Me? (Why, yes—I have.) I loved everything about that book—setting, main character, the drama surrounding family and friendships, the puzzle at its heart. I was so happy when the book won the Newbery. So I was thrilled when I learned that Stead has a new book out in August!
When seventh grader Georges (the "S" is silent) moves into a Brooklyn apartment building, he meets Safer, a twelve-year-old coffee-drinking loner and self-appointed spy. Georges becomes Safer's first spy recruit. His assignment? Tracking the mysterious Mr. X, who lives in the apartment upstairs. But as Safer becomes more demanding, Georges starts to wonder: how far is too far to go for your only friend?
We love the Wimpy Kid series at BookPage—so much that we interviewed Jeff Kinney (at his house!) for Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth; we asked him to do an illustrated Q&A for Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw; and we even interviewed a bunch of kids about how much they love the series (see below).
So, we are always excited to tell our readers when a new Wimpy Kid book has been announced. We found out this week that Wimpy Kid #7 (title TBA) will be published in the U.S. on Tuesday, November 13. The next day it will publish in the U.K., Australia, Greece, Japan, Korea and Norway.
At the Bologna Children's Book Fair, Kinney told a crowd that the new book centers around a school dance.
Are you excited to see how Greg or Rowley will deal with a love interest?
What's not to love? His books are hilarious. Even though I'm not a teacher, a librarian or a parent, I have been a camp counselor and a big sister to a tween (a long time ago)—and I've seen how readers giggle as they turn the pages, then demand the next book in the Series of Unfortunate Events. (How many arguments did my tween sister and I have over which was better: Harry Potter or Unfortunate Events?)
So I am very excited to share that Lemony Snicket's "authorized autobiographical account of his childhood" will come out on October 23, with a first printing of one million copies. This will be part one of four. The first book is called Who Could That Be at This Hour?.
In a funny press release from publisher Little, Brown, there's a quote from Snicket himself: "These books are questionable and contain questions. I, for one, question why anyone would be interested in reading them.”
Are you excited about reading Who Could That Be at This Hour? What's your favorite Snicket book?
Also in BookPage: Read an interview with Snicket's "representative," Daniel Handler, about his Printz Honor Book, Why We Broke Up. Read about one star-struck editor's experience of meeting Handler at ALA.