In December we posted the news that The Hunger Games #3 will arrive on August 24, 2010, and asked readers for title predictions. A couple of you suggested “The Victors” (which USA Today claims has been the most popular guess among book bloggers), but BookPage commenter Kali knew what she was talking about when she wrote:
This is my favorite book ever. The whole series is about her being the mockingjay, so I have a suggestion. Mockingjay. That should be the title. Plain and simple, Katniss IS the mockingjay. That says it all.
What do you think, Collins fans?
If you haven’t been sucked into the series yet, it’s not too late. To see if it's something you would like, read an interview with Suzanne Collins about Catching Fire or a review of The Hunger Games.
Last week I spoke to Newbery medalist Laura Amy Schlitz (Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!) about her new release The Night Fairy (Feb. 23 from Candlewick). The middle grade novel tells the story of Flory, a fairy who loses her wings in an accident and must fend for herself in a garden alongside bats, praying mantises and other potentially threatening creatures.
As she learns to appreciate life in the daytime—Flory was born a nocturnal fairy, although she attempts to change her sleep schedule—the little fairy also discovers emotions like empathy and hope.
I predict that this charming story will be a hit with kids who love the outdoors and playing make believe—not only because of the text, but because the accompanying illustrations are truly works of art. Illustrator Angela Barrett studied at the Royal College of Art in England with Quentin Blake (best known for immortalizing Roald Dahl’s characters in cartoons). She has illustrated more than 24 books, and her depictions of Flory’s miniature world will enchant young readers. (Visit this gallery on The Night Fairy’s website for examples.)
On Feb. 23, you can read about Schlitz’s intriguing new project and her interest in fairy stories on BookPage.com. In the meantime, listen to an audio clip from the author. In it, she discusses the joyful moment of winning the Newbery Medal in 2008:
We’re giving away a copy of The Night Fairy to a lucky reader. To enter, tell us in the comments: Who is your favorite fairy from literature? I’ll vote for Titania from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Deadline: Feb. 17 at 10 a.m.
Her YA art caper novel, Heist Society, hits stores today, and you can read all about it in an interview on BookPage.com. I talked to Carter (also the author of the bestselling Gallagher Girls series) about the book in December and am excited that teens can finally read the book for themselves. (Imagine if Julia Roberts' and George Clooney's characters in Ocean's 11 had a daughter. Who staged a huge heist as a teenager. That would be Kat, the star of Heist Society.)
Carter was a lot of fun to talk to (In response to “How to you feel about Valentine’s Day?” she answered: “Valentine’s Day is the day before all the chocolates go on sale”), so yesterday I was happy to see that Publisher’s Lunch reported a major film rights deal concerning Heist Society. The film rights were optioned to Warner Brothers for seven figures. Denise Di Novi (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) is slated to produce.
On her blog, Carter wrote: “The whole time I was writing Heist I always thought of it as a movie. More than once I've said that it's far more cinematic than anything I've ever done. But what do I know, right? I also think cake is a well-balanced breakfast, so I'm wrong. A lot. . . At the end of the day we ended up signing with Warner Brothers and the talented Denise DiNovi as the producer. The screenplay will be written by the fabulous Shauna Cross (who wrote Whip It and the screenplay for If I Stay).” She also reminded readers that a film option is not a guarantee that a movie will get made—but it’s a step in the right direction.
So commenters: Who would you pick to play Kat, the daughter of notorious art thieves, or her love interest Hale? What’s your favorite heist book?
Young adult author Barry Lyga recently signed a deal with Little, Brown for a book that Publisher's Marketplace described as "'Dexter' meets 'The Silence of the Lambs' for teens, about a teen boy who uses his killer instinct, inherited from his serial killer father, to help solve a series of gruesome murders." The book, I HUNT KILLERS, will be published in spring 2012.
Lyga is a rising star in the field of teen fiction, with four YA novels under his belt, all set in the town of South Brook, Maryland. I wonder if I HUNT KILLERS will take place in South Brook as well — and if so, should fans of his earlier books fear for the lives of their favorite characters? But even if the place and people are all new, Lyga's ability to create fully realized and believable characters will no doubt have me hiding under the covers with a flashlight, frantically turning the pages to find out who survives.
Related in BookPage: A Q&A with Lyga about his most recent book, Goth Girl Rising.
And a question for readers: What was the scariest book you read as a teenager?
We were happy to hear that Libba Bray has signed a contract with Little, Brown Books for Young Readers to write a new YA series for major bucks—$2 million, rumor has it. Editor Megan Tingley (who also publishes Stephenie Meyer) will be working with Bray on The Diviners, a trilogy set in the 1920s. Bray describes the series as "a wild new ride full of dames and dapper dons, jazz babies and Prohibition-defying parties, conspiracy and prophecy—and all manner of things that go bump in the neon-drenched night.”
Bray's success comes on the heels of winning the Printz Medal for Going Bovine, a picaresque tale of a teenage boy searching for a cure for mad cow disease, but she is also known for her atmospheric Victorian-era series that started with A Great and Terrible Beauty and contains supernatural elements.
One mystery: in our interview with Bray, she told us her work-in-progress was something quite different, “a satire about a group of teen beauty queens whose plane crashes on a deserted island. Sort of Lord of the Flies as channeled by P.J. O’Rourke and [National Lampoon writer] Doug Kenney.” Though we're eager to see what she makes of the 1920s, we're hoping this intriguing project will also see the light of day!
All you have to do is look at our February cover to know we’re excited about Valentine’s Day here at BookPage. To celebrate even more, we’re giving away a box of beautiful picture books—a perfect gift for any child. The collection features both board books for babies and picture books for young readers, including:
Related in BookPage: See our Valentine’s Day coverage (relationship guides and memoirs, romance column and more) in the February print edition.
Here in Nashville, we're still digging out from our biggest snowstorm in years, which dumped several inches of snow and ice on the city and wiped out last Friday's work day. If you've never observed the behavior of Southerners when a snowstorm is approaching, think London during the Blitz. As the snow fell, we were greeted with wintry scenes like this:
It's been cold and dreary for days since the storm hit, so imagine how pleased I was to open my inbox today and find this picture:
The photographer of this beautiful scene is Michael Sims, who writes: "In case it's as gray down there as it is here, herewith a moment of drama and color from E.B. White's garden in Maine, shot last summer. I wonder if Charlotte knows this bee. . . ."
Michael, the author of Apollo's Fire, Adam's Navel and several other books that combine his Renaissance-man interests in science, nature, evolution, literature and goodness knows what else, is working on a fascinating new project: The True Story of Charlotte's Web, coming from Walker/Bloomsbury in 2011. "The subtitle is still unsettled, and for that matter we may well change it," Michael tells us, "but right now it is something like this: The Dramatic Story of E.B. White's Eccentric Affair with Nature and the Birth of a Beloved Children's Book."
Charlotte's Web is my all-time favorite children's book (and it may well be yours, am I right?*), so I can't think of a more interesting project, or a lovelier place to do research, than E.B. White's Maine home. Here's Michael, in a photo taken by his wife Laura Sloan Patterson, in front of EBW's boat house, where Charlotte's Web was written:
Whatever the weather where you are, enjoy the summer greens of Maine, and stay tuned to the Book Case for updates on The True Story of Charlotte's Web.
* We'd like to know: What is your all-time favorite children's book? Tell us in the comments.
The Magician's Book by Laura Miller
December 2008, Little, Brown
The Magician's Book, which details Miller's reconciliation with Narnia, is a thoughtful and heartfelt book, and her exploration of the Chronicles resonates with me as much as the books themselves once did. She discovers that Narnia is big enough to contain not just the adventures she loved as a child, and not just the Christian themes that now appear obvious, but a whole world full of stories and wildness, bravery and treachery, ancient myths and Santa Claus; that loving Narnia allowed her to love all the stories it contained, referenced or built upon, and thus opened up untold worlds.
To me, the best children's books gave their child characters (and by extension, myself) the chance to be taken seriously. In Narnia, the boundary between childhood and adulthood—a vast tundra of tedious years—could be elided. The Pevensies not only get to topple the White Witch, fight in battles, participate in an earthshaking mystical event, and be crowned kings and queens; they do it all without having to grow up. Yet they become more than children, too. Above all, their decisions have moral gravity. In contrast to how most children experience their role in an adult world, what the child characters in these stories do, for better or for worse, really matters, and nowhere more so than in Edmund's betrayal.
. . . To the adult skeptic, the evident Christianity of the Chronicles makes their morality seem pat, the all-too-familiar stuff of tiresome, didactic tales. . . . But that's an illusion, fostered by an adult's resistance to what appears to be religious proselytizing. True, Lewis does populate Narnia with semiallegorical figures who represent eternal aspects of human nature in addition to more realistic characters like the Pevensies. The White Witch is bad through and through, almost as uncomplicated as a fairy-tale villain. But she's not the moral ground on which the story's moral battle is fought. Edmund is.
What are you reading today?
On January 18, Rebecca Stead won the Newbery Medal for When You Reach Me, a middle-grade novel that’s part mystery, part touching family comedy. The plot centers on Miranda, a sixth grade New Yorker who saves her friend’s life; preps her mom to appear on a game show; and holds down a part-time job at the neighborhood sandwich shop. Fans of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time will love this book; Miranda carries it around, and time travel figures into the story.
Because we couldn’t imagine the excitement Stead felt upon learning of the award, we contacted her for an e-mail Q&A. Below, she describes the moment of receiving a call from the Newbery committee, growing up in New York City and why she writes for kids.
Describe the moment when you were awarded the Newbery Medal.
I was standing in the kitchen of my apartment. [Chair of the Newbery committee] Katie O’Dell introduced herself on the phone and then said something like, “I’m about to tell you something that will change your life.” I think that’s when my feet fused to the floor. She had the whole committee on speaker phone, and there was this wonderful cheer. I couldn’t seem to move. I remember Katie saying, “it’s okay, you don’t have to talk.” But I hope I managed to tell them how grateful I felt—still feel.
What were your favorite books to read as a child and teenager?
I loved all kinds of fiction. I read books by Edward Eager, Madeleine L’Engle, E.L. Konigsburg, Judy Blume, Norma Klein, Bette Greene, Paula Danziger, Anne McCaffrey, Louise Meriwether, Robert Heinlein and Louise Fitzhugh. I also loved Grimm’s Fairy Tales, D’Aulaire’s Myths and Sydney Taylor’s All-of-a-kind Family books.
What do your children read today?
My sons read a lot of fantasy, including Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Artemis Fowl, and Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain books. But they also love the Hank Zipzer books, Hillary McKay’s Casson Family novels, Judy Blume’s Fudge books, and many others.
When did you first read A Wrinkle in Time? At what point did you decide to feature the novel in your own book?
I read A Wrinkle in Time when I was 11 or 12. My main character, Miranda, was carrying the book around from day one, but I wasn’t sure for a long time that it would be part of my final story. Wendy [Lamb] and I talked about that, and decided that I would try to deepen the connection between the two books. If it seemed to work, wonderful. If not, I would have to take Wrinkle out.
What’s the best part of writing books aimed at a younger audience?
Middle-grade kids are blossoming intellectually, and they’re less jaded than adults. I think they’re more open to big ideas. Also, kids generally root for a story to succeed, and they’re willing to do what I call “the reader’s work.” I find it much easier to write knowing that I have them for partners.
What were your favorite things to do as a kid growing up in New York City?
Eat Chinese food, see plays, go skateboarding, eat pizza, go ice skating and read. We used to have great block parties in New York City, and I loved those too. I also watched a heck of a lot of television.
Miranda’s mother appears on “The $20,000 Pyramid.” If you could go on any game show, which would it be?
I would be terrified to be on any game show, because I don’t like being put on the spot. But if I had to go on one, it would absolutely be Pyramid.
Do you identify with any specific character in When You Reach Me?
Miranda. Her brain works the way my brain worked at her age.
Have you read or listened to past Newbery acceptance speeches? Are you excited (or worried!) about your own speech?
I’ve read a couple of past speeches in The Horn Book, but that was before I ever dreamed I might be writing a speech myself. I’m excited. And worried.
I’m working on another novel for children. It’s unrelated to either of my first two books, and it’s coming together pretty slowly. I have a feeing that lots of people will write three books before I finish this one.
And a question for readers: What's your favorite Newbery winner?
There are a few narrators that stick out in my mind as being foundational personalities in my tween identity: Claudia Kincaid, Meg Murry, Vicky Austin, Polly O'Keefe, Margaret Simon, Harriet Welsch, Sal Hiddle. . . the list goes on.
When I recently finished Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me, the winner of the 2010 Newbery Medal, I felt like I had met a girl who deserves a spot on that list of superstars: Miranda, the spirited protagonist of Stead’s novel, named for both Miranda warnings and Miranda of “The Tempest.” Miranda is a natural fit between Claudia (From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler) and Meg (A Wrinkle in Time). She is savvy on the streets of New York City, curious, thoughtful—but not without a bit of attitude, interested in time travel.
Her story takes place in the late 1970s, but young readers today will identify with her life. When the novel beings, Miranda is helping her single mom, a paralegal who wears funky tights and blue nail polish, study to win big on “The $20,000 Pyramid.” In an opening funny moment, Miranda explains that she’s creating study guides for her mom “instead of watching after-school TV, which is a birthright of every latchkey child.”
Over the course of Stead’s 200-page middle-grade novel, Miranda deals with changing friendships, bullying, racial prejudice directed toward a classmate, a first crush, different income levels within her school—all while solving a mystery that could save her friend’s life. There are clues sprinkled throughout the book, not least of all Miranda’s love for A Wrinkle in Time, which she carries around and reads compulsively.
In a review for BookPage, Dean Schneider summed up the merits of When You Reach Me: “What could be better: a great setting, believable characters and a mystery deftly woven by a fine writer.” He couldn’t be more right. Read the book and see for yourself.
What characters will you always remember from childhood favorites?