Tomorrow: Books in Brooklyn!

One of my favorite things to do over the past few years was to help out at Brooklyn Botanic Garden‘s public events, particularly Ghouls and Gourds–in their Book Barn! Alas, I don’t live on the East Coast anymore.

Seriously, if you have kids and live anywhere near Brooklyn, throw on some costumes and head over there tomorrow around noon. Meet some great authors and illustrators, get a book signed, and march in the joyous parade at the end. Do it for me!

Digital Book Apps: Just the Beginning

When I was a kid, the idea of a fully functional touch-screen seemed so futuristic that it was impossible. But here it is! And it’s just the beginning!

A recent Twitter discussion (really, I need to do a better job of keeping up with these things) hosted by children’s book app developer Ruckus Media brought to light some of the things librarians, teachers, and other kid lit fans want to see in App-land. For an article about the conversation, see this article over at The Digital Shift.

It’s probably a good thing I didn’t participate in the discussion. The education professionals who were concerned about applicability to curriculum wouldn’t have liked the tangential thoughts I have about apps for kids, and the discussion was focused on children’s book apps. I’m thinking big-picture here: cast aside the trappings of the tactile media we’re accustomed to, and bring about an entertainment and education revolution! When I was a kid, the idea of a fully functional touch-screen seemed so futuristic that it was impossible. But here it is! And it’s just the beginning!

I love traditional books, but I blame my novelty book training for fostering a mind that sees a format and tries to take it into a new realm entirely. Pages, smages. Interact! Let the reader create the story and turn the book into a world of its own! With apps–yes, even book apps–I deeply feel that the rules can be broken much more and in ways I can’t yet imagine.

I can’t wait to see how technology develops. Forget some of the scary stuff like vanishing privacy and legal issues. Set that aside for a minute and come back to it later. Now, let’s have fun!

Feel free to suggest any groundbreaking children’s apps in the comments. I’d love to see them.

Hugo: Movie of a Film-within-a-Novel

I don’t know how I missed the announcement that Brian Selznick’s Caldecott-winning masterpiece The Invention of Hugo Cabret was going to be adapted for film. But it’s coming!

In case you don’t know, the Caldecott Medal is awarded “to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.” So you really must find a copy of the book and read/view it before you see this movie. I also encourage you to read Mr. Selnick’s acceptance speech, in which he explains how he “came to make a 550-page picture book,” and how he created “a novel that read like a movie,” and which also includes a cinematic illustrated sequence at the beginning, modeled after the introductory sequence of illustrations from the book.

Mr. Selznick is only credited as a writer for this movie (just for the book, not for the screenplay), which I find perplexing, because the book is very much about films. He also has skill with miniature set design, as I witnessed in person during a 2009 performance of “Live Oak, With Moss” at the HERE arts center (link contains a some mature themes). I can’t help but wonder whether the film would be different under Mr. Selnick’s artistic direction if the rights hadn’t been sold to a big studio with a big budget. Is he pleased that his film-within-a-novel has been given life on the big screen, or does he wish he’d been in a position to give more input? Perhaps a mix of both.

In any case, this does look like an appealing movie, and it has a cast I can get behind: Chloe Moretz (who somehow really stuck in my mind after an episode of 30 Rock), Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Jude Law. The actor who plays the titular character does look like Hugo from the book. And don’t forget, it’s directed by Martin Scorsese.

The movie will be released in the U.S. on November 23, giving you plenty of time to get your hands on the book in advance.

Hard Times in Children’s Publishing

A recent article over at The Bookseller discusses examples of children’s book creators who struggle to survive financially. It contains some interesting quotes and a lively debate in the comments.

I’m not sure if one can take a few examples and start assuming that a children’s literature apocalypse is coming, but I do agree that it’s not easy to make money as a writer or as an editor. It does seem that many undeserving books are published each year, and I usually dismiss those as ones publishers hope will sell without too much effort. As long as those books make money, an editor can continue to publish the less obvious, riskier book that may be a more worthwhile read.

Remember, most book editors spend their time in the office crunching numbers and generating paperwork to defend the marketability of the titles they want to acquire, then do the majority of their reading and actual editing work on their personal time. It’s a demanding job, and it doesn’t pay well.

So, what’s the best way to maintain the quality of children’s books and to make sure good creators continue to be published? Buy those books. Recommend them to friends. Support your local library. And keep librarians in schools, so that they can continue to select the best books to help our children develop important skills and to become discerning readers in their own right.

Are There Any YA Novels About Bipolar Disorder?

Demi Lovato, Disney teen actress and pop star, recently completed three months of in-patient therapy. She has recently started opening up to the public about her issues and healing process, and has joined Seventeen as a contributing editor.

After news broke that Catherine Zeta Jones spent five days being treated for bipolar II disorder, Demi Lovato also announced to People that she is bipolar, and that it was one of the things she discovered and dealt with in therapy.

I can’t say I’m a fan of Demi Lovato as I am not very familiar with any of her work, but I do support her decision to tell the world about her personal struggle. I usually think people should stay private, that celebrities don’t need to share as much as they do (keep some mystique, people), but I think this is something that it is especially important for kids and teens to hear about. It is not shameful to be bipolar, and more people struggle with the illness than most of us realize. I have two very close friends who have struggled with it their entire lives, and I have witnessed some of the things they have gone through.

Teens should know about bipolar disorder. Those who have it, or who think they might have it, should definitely not feel alone. They should not feel ashamed. There appear to be a few nonfiction books about the subject available for young adults, but what about YA novels that include characters with this mental illness? Unfortunately, the Library of Congress website is stalling on my search today. If you know of any great books out there with bipolar characters, post a comment! And if there aren’t any books like this, I hope a great author writes one soon.

On Hold

There are quite a few recently-published young adult and middle grade novels that I’m hoping to read in the next month or so. Unfortunately, 95% of them are already checked out from every branch of my library system, and I had to put them on hold. My hold list is getting quite long.

But rather than let this rile me up, I choose to be ecstatic about it. I am thrilled that all of these books are being checked out. It means there is still a very healthy book-reading young population out there, and that books for young people are highly valued. As a fan of children’s literature, I am happy to know that I am a part of a very large fan community, composed of people of all ages and backgrounds.

I believe in supporting publishers, bookstores, and libraries. If I wanted to, I could go down to my local bookstore and purchase some of these books for myself, without having to wait for them to be returned to the library and put on a shelf for me. But the fun thing about putting books on hold is that I never know when I may get an email telling me that a book is ready for me to pick up. It’s like a surprise party whenever that happens. And in the meantime, I’ve had a chance to reread some of the books in my possession: Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones (see my previous posts about that author), The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (stay tuned for part two of the film adaptation, to be released on July 15; see a teaser trailer below).

And while I was writing this, some good news: I’m off to the library to pick up Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu from the hold shelf.

And here, the HP7P2 teaser trailer mentioned above:

Junior Library Guild Newsletter

This just in: JLG Monthly is now available to non-members as well as members. I love following Junior Library Guild on facebook to see what they’re recommending, and I can’t wait to start getting more information every month. If you’re a librarian and you’ve never heard of the Junior Library Guild, you should definitely check them out!

JLG Monthly, a colorful e-newsletter from Junior Library Guild, informs members of their forthcoming books, provides news about special offers, new products and services, and contains an intriguing library industry article.

Sign up here.

New Stephenie Meyer Book in the Works

Last week, Publishers Lunch cited an article from USA Today mentioning Stephenie Meyer’s current work-in-progress.

Stephenie Meyer revealed some details about the as-yet-untitled novel she’s reportedly working on: “It’s a fantasy that takes place in another world where people are using bows and arrows and swords. There’s a little bit of magic, but it’s a very limited form of magic. The characters are human, and some have the ability to use magic and some don’t. It’s pretty dark. People die. The main character is a 17-year-old girl, and she’s kind of cool.”

The full article includes many more tidbits from the Twilight author.

On Shelves: Red Glove

The second in an ongoing series by Holly Black, Red Glove is now on shelves. I just finished the first book, White Cat, a few weeks ago, having received a copy from one of my publishing insider friends. The series (Curse Workers) is dark and dystopian, and includes magical talents in certain people that may have been misunderstood and misused for centuries.

White Cat is definitely a page-turner; it throws you right into a shocking mystery from page one. I read it in two sittings (because, you know, real life interrupts sometimes). Can’t wait to get my hands on Red Glove!

Wanted: The Lost Thing

I want to see The Lost Thing. Here’s why:

  • It’s by Shaun Tan. (I’d link to his site but bandwidth has been exceeded–probably by people trying to find The Lost Thing.)
  • It’s based on a picture book. (Again, bandwidth exceeded there.)
  • It won an Oscar this year (animated short film).
  • I’ve seen Shaun Tan at a panel discussion and thought he was refreshingly modest and serious at the same time.
  • It looks really good, based on the trailer.

However, I can’t seem to find The Lost Thing. The official website says it is available on DVD. But in order to get it I have to pay $29.95 Australian Dollars plus $8 shipping to get it in the US (based on the current exchange rate, that’s $39.30 USD). It is not available on Netflix in any fashion. There are blog posts about this short film all over the internet, but it looks like the distributer took down the full-length videos everywhere. It is not in the catalog of my city’s large public library system. It does not even appear to be available for purchase on Amazon (my search pulls up a bunch of Bear in the Big Blue House VHS tapes).

I am very sorry, Shaun Tan. I would like to see your award-winning film. I am willing to pay a bit for it, but not $39.30. If someone out there has seen it and can convince me that it is worth that much while I am “between jobs” then I would love to hear about it. If this makes me a cheapskate, please tell me. In the meantime, I sincerely hope the DVD distribution company releases it a bit more worldwide. And I will find a copy of the picture book at my local bookstore or library to tide me over until that happens.