Whether you're interested in the complexities of religious extremism or you're a huge YA fantasy fan, this week there is something for everyone on BookPage.com. Below, I've highlighted a few new features (click the book titles to continue reading). Note that all of the pieces are web-exclusives, so you won't find the Q&A, interview or reviews in the print edition of BookPage.
Which book will you read first?
One of the more unusual titles going on sale this week is Three Wishes: A Story of Good Friends, Crushing Heartbreak and Astonishing Luck on Our Way to Motherhood. Written by three friends, the memoir chronicles their unusual path to motherhood. All three were single and pushing 40. All three had made the decision to go the sperm donor route. And as soon as they did, all three met a man and had a child the old-fashioned way.
Today we're featuring a Behind the Book story from authors Carey Goldberg, Beth Jones and Pamela Ferdinand, explaining why they felt compelled to tell their tale to readers.
As Goldberg puts it, "They say you write the book you need to read; I was doing that, writing just what I would have liked to read as a single woman facing a harsh biological deadline, looking for role models and inspiration."
Continue reading the story behind Three Wishes here.
Today is International Children's Book Day, a celebration sponsored by the International Board on Books for Young People. Children's Book Day is celebrated annually on Hans Christian Anderson's birthday (April 2) "to inspire a love of reading and to call attention to children's books."
Every year, a different country sponsors the celebration, and this year Spain is the host country. Eliacer Cansino, a children's author from Sevilla, has written a message to children in honor of books and reading. (Cansino has written many books, perhaps most notably his award-winning El misterio Velázquez, which tells the story of the famous painter and one of the dwarfs from Las Meninas.) Book illustrator Noemí Villamuza designed the Day's poster.
I really enjoyed Cansino's message, which you can find translated in English at this link. He quotes a popular children's rhyme about learning to sail, then describes how a forgotten book is able to unfold its sails when a child picks it up—and the child, likewise, is able to be transported "to a world that was at once exciting and unknown":
And that is the story of how I discovered that beyond my home there was a river, and behind that river a sea, and in the sea was a boat setting sail. The first boat I embarked was called La Hispaniola, but it could just have easily be called Nautilus, Rocinante, Sinbad's Ship or Huckleberry's Great Big Boat… All of these, no matter the passing of time, will be there waiting for a child's eyes to look upon them, unfold their sails and set them sailing…
So, don't wait any longer. Reach out and pick up a book. Read it and you'll find that much like that childhood song of mine, there is no boat, no matter how small, that in time doesn't learn how to sail.
Are there any book blog posts that you'd like to recoginze? Give them a shout out in the comments. Happy reading!
A few interesting posts I've stumbled on in the past week include:
Welcome to National Poetry Month
Posted by Savvy Verse & Wit
Yesterday I posted a few poem-a-day e-mails hosted by several different websites, but Savvy Verse & Wit takes National Poetry Month coverage to a whole different level. This week she posted a blog tour, so you can see which blogs are showcasing poets and poetry on every day of the month. For example, on April 9, Rhapsody in Books will feature W.B. Yeats and Literate Housewife will blog about Alan Ginsburg. Look out for discussion of contemporary poetry on Savvy.
Book Plant Potters: A DIY Project
Posted by Entomology of a Bookworm
Alright, booklovers, I can understand if you're unwilling to rip apart a hardback in the service of a nifty project. But still: think of all those books in the giveaway box at your local bookstore! Recycle them into plant potters—sounds like a great springtime activity to me.
Kurt Vonnegut Reads from Slaughterhouse-Five
Posted by Open Culture
Vonnegut fans will definitely want to check out this post, which links to an online recording of the author reading from Slaughterhouse-Five. (I guess you probably figured that out from the title of the blog post!) Open Culture also provides a link to Vonnegut's 1962 Sci-Fi story, "2BR02B." This reminds me: Has anyone had a chance to read Look at the Birdie?
Anyone seen all the TV commercials for Walgreens, Wal-Mart and everywhere else about the "perfect" Easter basket? I don't know about you, but I think a great Easter basket includes a couple picture books next to those chocolate eggs.
In the April print edition of BookPage, beloved author and illustrator Jan Brett writes about her new book, The Easter Egg. (Click the graphic below to see the whole interview.) You can also catch Brett on The Martha Stewart Show today.
For a lovely book that focuses on Christian teaching (rather than Easter bunnies), check out Carol Wedeven's The Easter Cave.
Do you have a favorite book to share on Easter?
Maybe you don’t want to devise an elaborate hoax for April Fools’ Day (see: Google as "Topeka"), but there is another way to get in the spirit of practical jokes—reading, of course!
What are your favorite books to read when you need a good laugh? A few humor books we've covered recently in BookPage include Cake Wrecks, Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog and When You are Engulfed in Flames. Look out for a hand-written Q&A with Sarah Silverman in our May print edition.
Novels and memoirs perpetually show up on the BookPage most-viewed list, but since April is National Poetry Month, I want to encourage readers to branch out a bit and enjoy some verse.
Before you do anything else, read this poetry roundup from our April print edition. Diann Blakely highlights several new collections, including Poetry in Person by Alexander Neubauer, The Apple Trees at Olema by Robert Hass and others. Younger readers will enjoy our roundup of children's poetry books—with titles like Can You Dig It? and Everybody Was a Baby Once, this feature proves that poetry can be silly and fun.
Many websites are hosting special series or e-mails in honor of National Poetry Month:
Who are your favorite poets? What poems do you like to re-read? Leave a comment and you'll be entered to win Shel Silverstein's classic A Light in the Attic (a special edition with 12 new poems!). Deadline: Next Thursday, April 8 at 10 a.m.
I will always love Robert Frost's "Home Burial"—probably because the first time I heard it was when Frank Bidart read it out loud in my senior year poetry seminar in college. (" 'Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t,' she cried.") And Pablo Neruda's Odes are very special to me. Trying to teach a kid to love poetry? Pick an ode, any ode. I like "Ode to Tomatoes." (And after reading it out loud, hand her a copy of Pam Muñoz Ryan's fabulous The Dreamer—read an interview with the author here.)
Today is the publication date of The Summer Before, the Baby-Sitters Club prequel, and my interview with author Ann M. Martin is now available on BookPage.com.
One topic that Martin and I talked about that did not make it into the feature was the issue of book collaborators (a.k.a. ghostwriters). It seems obvious that an author can't possibly pen 12 books a year, but the process of collaborating on a book has always been mysterious to me, until I spoke with Martin.
Here's how it worked with the BSC:
Martin wrote the first 20 Baby-Sitters Club books in succession. When the books became popular, they started coming out more frequently: once every other month, and then quickly after that, once a month. Then the "Little Sister" series started and they were also coming out once a month. "Clearly there was no way I was going to be able to write all the books," says Martin:
I started writing—first I think I wouldn’t write one every year. So I was writing 11 a year, and then every other month, and fewer and fewer books. But I was very happy with all of the other writers. One reason I think that it worked so well was because Scholastic kept the number of other writers small. It’s not like there were 40 other people working on the series. It was a pretty small number of people. I don’t think it was more than 10. Each one of the writers had to read all of the books in the series up until the point when he or she was going to begin writing. I outlined each of the books, and then gave the outline to the writer, and the writer wrote from the outline. And I also edited the manuscript. So I felt that I had a hand in every one, but because there were so few other writers and because they were so closely tied to the series as a whole I think that the voice remained consistent. And that was very important.
What's your opinion on collaborators? Do you ever sense an inconsistent voice when authors are working together on a book? Do you think ghostwriters get enough credit? Share your thoughts in the comments.
We occasionally commemorate author birthdays on this blog (none more popular than Jane Austen's), but today I want to give a shout out to some book birthdays—Where's Spot? and Shrek!.
Spot turns 30 this year, and there will be many festivities to celebrate his big day—he'll make an appearance at the White House Easter Egg Roll and even at Dollywood here in Tennessee. An interesting fact that's arisen in the media coverage is that Eric Hill's first Spot book was the first-ever "lift-the-flap" book. Apparently the author was working on an advertising flyer that involved a flap covering a picture. His young son was responsive to the idea, and that enthusiasm led him to create Spot, and his books have now sold 50 million copies. In honor of the 30th anniversary, Putnam is issuing a new edition of Where's Spot? that comes with a special seal. Isn't it amazing that Eric Hill created lift-the-flap books (a favorite among my old babysitting charges—that and scratch-and-sniff)?
Shrek!—William Steig's picture book that inspired the movies—turns 20 this year. For this anniversary, FSG is releasing a special edition, as well.
Do you have any fond memories of reading Where's Spot? or Shrek! to your children (or yourself)?
Related in BookPage: Read a review of Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig.
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
Random House, June 29, 2010
Count me among the obsessed. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is an amazing historical novel that has it all—mystery, romance, adventure, betrayal and scenes with so much intensity, complexity and historical detail that you'll wonder if Mitchell was reincarnated from an earlier life.
The novel opens in 1799 in Japan, where the Dutch East Indies Company has a trading post at Nagasaki. The young Dutch clerk de Zoet arrives at the post with high hopes of making his fortune and impressing the family of his beloved fiancee, Anna. But soon after his arrival he is drawn to Aibagawa, a Japanese woman whose beauty shines through the disfiguring burns on her face. As he settles down to sleep one hot summer night with his servant Hanzaburo nearby, Jacob can't keep his mind off the alluring and mysterious Aibagawa:
Night insects trill, tick, bore, ring; drill, prick, saw, sting.
Hanzaburo snores in the cubby-hole outside Jacob's door.
Jacob lies awake clad in a sheet, under a tent of netting.
Ai, mouth opens; ba, lips meet; ga, tongue's root; wa, lips.
Involuntarily he re-enacts today's scene over and over.
He cringes at the boorish figure he cut, and vainly edits the script.
He opens the fan she left in Warehouse Doorn. He fans himself.
The paper is white. The handle and struts are made of paulownia wood.
A watchman smacks his wooden clappers to mark the Japanese hour.
The yeasty moon is caged in his half-Japanese half-Dutch window . . . Glass panes melt the moonlight; paper panes filter it, to chalk dust.
Day break must be near. 1796's ledgers are waiting in Warehouse Doorn.
It is dear Anna whom I love, Jacob recites, and I whom Anna loves.
Beneath his glaze of swat he sweats. His bed linen is sodden.
Miss Aibagawa is untouchable, he thinks, as a woman in a picture . . .
All you Mitchell fans: we know you can't wait for this one. But how about the rest of our readers? Does anyone plan to join me as a first-time Mitchell reader and dive into The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet?