Wednesday, April 27, 2011

#$%#: Translating Harry Potter in Russia

You know, I'm a mild-mannered person.  Or, rather, I'm a person who expects the best of others and a person who prefers rational evaluation above emotional response.  But, I'll tell you what: Misogyny will set me off at any time and on any day.

In doing some research, I ran across a very recent (2 days ago) interview with the Russian translator of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone on Russia's best cultural website  The Harry Potter translation was rushed and criticized, something the translator admirably addresses in his interview and could have mentioned as an excuse for any failings.

He continues to say, however, the following:

Книга, кстати, достаточно легкая, написана простым языком. Видно было, что какая-то несчастная шотландская разведенная женщина с ребенком или двумя на руках сидела в каком-то кафе и писала явно без особой надежды на успех.

Here is my rough translation: " The book [Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone], by the way, is fairly light, written in a simple language. It was clear, that some unhappy Scottish divorced woman with a child or two(on her lap) sat in a cafe and wrote without any especial hope for success."

First of all, J.K. had only one child.  Second of all, hadn't she the right? Third of all, isn't simple language appropriate for a children's book?

Am I overreacting? What do you think?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Weekend Young Adult (and Crossover) Reviews

Hello Everyone! So this is the most tardy Weekend Reviews post ever.  Not only is it Wednesday, but this post actually covers the weekends of April 16-17 and April 9-10.  April in academia is crazy, so it's catch up time.  Here's what's been reviewed in the major media recently:

Rachel Pepper reviews Malinda Lo's Huntress for the Bay Area Reporter.  ("Lo's lush descriptions of the physical landscapes her characters reside in, and the perils they encounter on their journey, make the pages turn effortlessly. Her ability to populate these worlds with compelling young lesbian characters is an added bonus for LGBT readers.")

Joanna H. Kraus considers Brian Katcher's Almost Perfect in a series of reviews of recent award-winning titles for The Oakland Tribune. (Kraus calls Almost Perfect a "novel about a transgender teen is conversational, compelling and compassionate.")

Pam Norfolk reviews Maggie Stiefvater's Lament for Longridge News (U.K.): "Lament, a beautifully written and haunting story of good and evil, love and hate, the spiritual, the temporal and the power of emotions, is about as good as teen fiction gets."

Susan Carpenter reviews Akata Witch, by Nnedi Okorafor, for the Los Angeles Times. ("The book is similar in theme to many other coming-of-age fantasies, but the details are distinctly African, the language unrushed and elegant. The dresses the girls wear are crafted from traditional raffia ribbon. The sounds of Fela Kuti and other Afrobeat musicians are often playing in the background of the action.") And, Matthew Finch reviews Akata Witch for The Brooklyn Rail.

Looking for books for teens about London? Mary-Liz Shaw has a recommendation or two in The Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.

Mechele R. Dillard reviews Jennifer Laurens's Overprotected in the Atlanta Examiner.

Karen MacPherson reads Gary D. Schmidt's Okay for Now and finds it a "truly remarkable book" for Scripps Howard News Service (here linked to The Detroit News).

Mary Harris Russell also reviews Gary D. Schmidt's Okay for Now in The Chicago Tribune.

Don't Miss Review of the Week/s: MacPherson contributes an excellent audiobook article--complete with YA-title recommendations--this week for Scripps Howard News Service (linked here to The Seattle Times).

John Stephens's The Emerald Atlas is a new Middle Grade fantasy that reviewers think might appeal to teens. Dana Stevens reviews it for The New York Times and Sonja Bolle reviews the title with reference to Diana Wynne Jones and Harry Potter in the Los Angeles Times.

Linda Sue Park reviews Ruta Sepetys Between Shades of Gray for The New York Times.

Phil Ness considers Aiden Chamber's YA short-story collection, The Kissing Game,  for The Guardian. ("Teenage readers will love this nastiness and the dark strangeness of all these stories." Sold!)

Also in The Guardian, Marcus Sedgwick reviews Phil Earle's Being Billy and finds it a "moving debut novel."

Mary Harris Russell reviews the last Alex Rider title for The Chicago Tribune.

Sarah Pereira reads Kelley Armstrong's The Gathering for Guleph Mercury. ("As in all of Armstrong’s books, the characters are endearing people that readers can related to. This is one of the traits that makes her books so addictive. And her young adult books are also great reads for adults.")

Ruel S. De Vera reviews Ally Condie's Matched for the Philippine Daily Inquirer. ("No action hero, Cassia is a far less tortured, far more intellectual protagonist than Hunger Games’ battle hardened Katniss Everdeen.")

Here's a review I missed a couple of weeks ago: Sonja Bolle reviews Maria Padian's Jersey Tomatoes are the Best in the Los Angeles Times.

Weekend Young Adult (and Crossover) Book News

As with this week's review post, this news roundup is a two-week edition and quite tardy.  Better late than never, I suppose, so here's what I've found interesting lately:

Anne Joseph profiles Meg Rosoff for The Jewish Chronicle Online in an article titled "Why Meg Rosoff's best-selling teen fiction is secretly so Jewish."

Brian Truitt writes about the forthcoming graphic novel versions of Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy in USAToday. (Sample pages available.)

And here's an ongoing discussion about teens, education, and required reading hosted by Ta-Nehisi Coates on The Atlantic's site.  It's a debate that will never die, but there are many interesting comments to the post about literary analysis and high school reading.

And in a related article, Patrick Ness takes on "unsuitable" books for teens in the Guardian.   (Adult books he recommends for teens, really, including The Catcher in the Rye, The Stand, etc.)

Jennifer Arrow takes on HBO's adaptation of Game of Thrones from the perspective of one who has not read the books for E!Online.

Susan Dominus talks Hunger Games trilogy for The New York Times.

Is it summer reading time already?!? Steven Bennett recommends some reading for middle and high school readers at

Charlie Cooper talks teen dystopian fiction, complete with reading list, in The Independent.

Robin Kirk also discusses dystopian fiction for teens at Open Salon.

Ben Fulton talks to Carol Lynch Williams for The Salt Lake Tribune. William's newest novel is Miles from Ordinary and "takes readers inside the guilt-ridden head of a teenage girl struggling through life with a mentally ill mother."

Marlene Charnizon finds out "What are They [Teens] Reading" at the library for School Library Journal.

The Today Show has an excerpt from Adriana Trigiana's YA novel Viola in Reel Life up on their site.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Weekend Young Adult (and Crossover) Reviews

Geraldine Brennan reviews a number of teen books for The Observer.  Tim Bowler's Buried Thunder sounds especially good: "The suspense and claustrophobia, and the war in Maya's head between reason and paranoia, reminded me of Alan Garner's classic The Owl Service. It was hard to believe that Maya's family could move into their new home, acquire guests and scare them away all within a week, but the story is strong enough to survive a sketchy set-up."

Ibi Kaslik reviews Tim Wynne-Jones' Blink & Caution for The Globe & Mail.  "Despite the gimmicks and occasional heavy-handedness, Blink and Caution captures the alienation of adolescence and the painful process of becoming oneself, in a time fraught with complications and chaos both from within and without."

Pam Norfolk considers Julie Hearn's Wreckers for Fleetwood Weekly News. (U.K.)

Deb Abela reviews Ursula Dubosarsky's The Golden Day for ABC-Canberra. ("A haunting and beautifully written story...")

J.P. Wickwire reviews Lauren DeStefano's Wither for Florida Times-Union.("Written with both maturity and literary merit, it is a poignant and satisfying romance sure to spawn many sequels.")

Susan Carpenter also reviews Wither for the Los Angeles Times "Not Just for Kids" column.  Carpenter writes, "A wonderfully toxic brew of meddling and polygamist gamesmanship, Wither is an exciting and powerfully written addition to the increasingly packed shelves of dystopian YA."

Carpenter also reviews Ruta Sepetys Between Shades of Gray for The Kansas City Star.

Leslie Wright considers Karen McQuestion's Favorite for, picked up by Seattle PI. (" unexpected story set with great characters.")

Lisa Brown discusses Elizabeth Eulberg's Prom and Prejudice and Rick Yancy's The Monstrumologist in The Joplin Globe.

Julia Z. Rosenberg reviews books for kids and teens about sex at ParentDish

Michael Berry reviews three new fantasy novels "set in the British Isles" for the San Francisco Chronicle.  I am sure two of these will crossover to a teen audience.  (The last novel reviewed, Matt Haig's The Radleys, stars "a middle-class, suburban British family trying to cope with the supernatural, in this case their repressed need to drink human blood."  Sounds intriguing, but not particularly appealing for the Young Adult reader.)

Meghan Cox Gurdon takes a look at John Stephens's The Emerald Atlas--a Middle Grade/Young Adult novel aimed at the 9-to-15-year-old reader--in the Wall Street Journal.

The Seattle Times provides capsule reviews of local books for children and teens this week.  (New Deb Caletti and a cyberattack thriller are among them.)

Weekend Young Adult (and Crossover) Book News

It was a slow week in Young Adult (and Crossover) Book News.  (Good thing, since I spent the weekend in Chicago discussing undergraduate research and am still catching up on life.) Here's what I found for the week of March 28-April 3:

Cat Clarke recommends her favorite top 10 books with teens behaving badly for The Guardian. It's a good list and well worth reading.  I especially like Clarke's justifications for her choices, as in this paragraph about Cory Doctorow's Little Brother: "Teen hackers in futuristic San Francisco desperately cling to their civil liberties in a sinister Orwellian society. I fell in love with this book even though I didn't understand half (OK, more than half) of the techno-speak. Apparently you're not supposed to trust anyone over 25, so that's me told."

Anthony Horowitz talks about his family in The Observer.

Amy Pattee takes on the much-discussed Bitch Feminist YA book list for Kirkus Reviews and recommends four books as feminist titles.

Steven Mihailovich profiles Cindy Pon (Fury of the Phoenix) for the La Jolla Light.

Charlie Higson has moved on from Young Bond to "a world in which everyone over the age of 14 is consumed by a plague that turns them into deformed, demented and droolingly bloodthirsty zombies."  Christopher Middleton talks to Higson for The Telegraph.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Reading "The Chocolate War" in 2011

I'll admit it: I had not read The Chocolate War (1974) until early 2011 when I was putting together a Young Adult Literature course. I'm not sure why I hadn't read this one in Middle School or in Junior High, but for some reason I didn't.  It's possible the novel's overwhelming maleness turned me off, but I don't know for sure.

I knew a few things about The Chocolate War before reading it this January.  I knew it was, for example, a much-banned book, and I knew that it is read in schools today.  In fact, I polled my YA-course students and many of them had read The Chocolate War as part of a Middle School or Junior High English class.  (One of my students read it in a fourth-grade class!)  The inclusion of The Chocolate War in so many school curricula surprised me as The Chocolate War holds the #4 spot on the ALA's 100 most frequently challenged books list (1990-1999) and is #3 on the 2000-2009 list.

So, what makes The Chocolate War relevant today 35 years since its release?  Is it relevant only because it is controversial?  Is The Chocolate War a good Young Adult novel?

First a brief plot summary with spoilers: Trinity High School serves as the novel's setting--one as grim, and brown and gray as the road featured on the newest edition's cover.  Two forces rule Trinity: 1) the Priests, headed temporarily by the malevolent Brother Leon; 2) the Vigils, a secret gang of Trinity students led by Archie Costello.  The story centers around the school's fundraiser, which this year is selling cut-rate Mother's Day chocolates with the lavender "Mom" ribbon removed.  (The discarding of the lavender ribbons serves as a signal of the lack of color and of women and girls in the novel.)  The novel's protagonist, Jerry Renault, receives an assignment from Archie--he is to refuse to sell the chocolates for 10 days.  Jerry's refusal enrages Brother Leon, a fact that earns Jerry some respect from his classmates, especially those who are not associated with the Vigils.  Brother Leon is worried about the chocolate sale and asks Archie for his assistance in "motivating" the students and in pressuring Jerry to accept some chocolates for sale.  When Jerry's 10 days are up, however, Jerry decides to continue to refuse the chocolates.  Why?  He tells another student he's not quite sure, but wonders "Do I dare disturb the universe?"  Jerry's continuing refusal to participate in the fundraiser leads to bullying from all sides (including from the teachers) and culminates in a fight with a member of the Vigils in which Jerry is brutally beaten.

Several things surprised me about The Chocolate War in 2011:

1. Cormier's sophisticated narration.  Cormier uses a third-person narration, unusual for YA problem novels even in the 1970s.  The point of view shifts from character to character--some of them minor players in the story, some major--as the story unfolds.  In fact, the story opens from the point of view of a very minor character (Obie) and it isn't until several chapters into the novel that we understand that Jerry is the novel's protagonist.  The effect of this strategy is in the foregrounding of the setting; The collective bullying is more important than the individual's suffering;
2. There is no lesson. Jerry doesn't learn anything from resisting his bullies, except that perhaps he should have gone along with the crowd;
3. Cormier's teens (Archie, Emile) are just as corrupt as the adults, and his adults (Brother Eugene) have the potential to be as innocent as some of the teens;
4. The frank description of young male sexuality and, in particular, of masturbation.  The teens' sex lives are as alienating and as futile as Trinity High itself.

The Chocolate War inspired excellent discussion in my YA lit course and resulted in some interesting blog posts, including one on Jerry's identity, one looking at The Chocolate War as an allegory for Nazi Germany, and one questioning the definition of The Chocolate War as a Young Adult novel.  I left my reading of The Chocolate War certain about one thing--The Chocolate War is an ambitious, literary novel.  It is also a novel more adults should read; It's an important crossover work and proof that Young Adult literature can be as significant as "literary fiction."

Crossover potential YA -->Adult: Absolutely.
C. Anita Tarr's 2002 "The Absence of Moral Agency in Robert Cormier's The Chocolate War" (in Children's Literature, vol. 30) changed the way I read The Chocolate War, however.  I will post about these reconsiderations soon.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Weekend Young Adult (and Crossover) Book Reviews

It's a slow week for YA and Crossover book reviews in the major media.  Are we waiting for the announcement of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award?  Is everyone at Bologna? Are we all on Spring Break?  In any case, here's what I've found this weekend:

Not my thing, but I know many teens and adults love these books: Jean M. Auel's The Land of the Painted Caves, the final volume of the Earth's Children series, is out and Carol Memmott reviews it for USAToday. (And Liesl Bradner reviews The Land of the Painted Caves for the Los Angeles Times.)

Susan Carpenter reviews Ruta Sepetys Between Shades of Gray for the Los Angeles Times "Not Just for Kids" Column. ("A story of hardship as well as human triumph, Between Shades of Gray is an eye-opening reimagination of a very real tragedy written with grace and heart.") More on this novel at Weekend News today.

Mandy Southgate considers Maria V. Snyder's Poison Study for (here in SeattlePI): "This ability to create completely unique, imaginative yet believable worlds and to weave great stories within those worlds puts Maria V. Snyder up there with my favourite authors Anthony Horowitz and Garth Nix."

Shelby Scoffield reviews Carrie Ryan's Dark and Hollow Places for Deseret News. ("Zombie apocalypse. Sisters falling in love with each other's former flames. New York City destroyed and surrounded by carriers of a lethal disease.")  Scoffield interviews Ryan here.

Barbara McIntyre reviews Lisa and Laura Roecker's The Liar Society for The Beacon Journal. ("...quite dark, with intimidating adults, conspiracy theories and coverups")

My favorite Mal Peet reviews a new Australian novel Everybody Jam, by Ali Lewis, in The Guardian. ("So a nice, sweet book, then? Not if you look with a darker eye at the title and read it as: everybody tipped into a cauldron, brought to a rolling boil, then allowed to cool and set.")

Tony Bradman considers Irfan Master's A Beautiful Lie (a novel set in India before 1947) in The Guardian and offers up a mixed review.

Okay, now here's a review of Laura Kasischke's The Raising (review by Julia Keller for The Chicago Tribune) that has crossover potential written all over it: "...The Raising is that rare thing: a literary novel distinguished by splendid prose that is also a down-and-dirty page-turner, a creep show featuring empty caskets and walking corpses." Downloading...

Weekend Young Adult (and Crossover) Book News

Welcome to this week's Weekend (and Crossover) News.  You'll find a few interviews, Between Shades of Gray, and Alex Rider.

Alexandra Alter talks to Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) for the Wall Street Journal.  ("Early hype suggests the novel may resonate equally with adults and teens. The book has already sold in 23 countries, and 16 of the foreign publishers will release it as an adult novel. In Britain, Penguin U.K. will publish two versions—adult and "YA"—with separate covers and marketing campaigns. In the U.S., Penguin is featuring the book in both its adult and young adult catalogs, and has been promoting it with adult book clubs.")

You can find two reviews of Between Shades of Gray in last week's Weekend Reviews post.

Some TV-book news from Variety: "Nickelodeon has optioned the rights to Sara Mlynowski's Magic in Manhattan series."

Diana Wynne Jones's obituary in The New York Times. (And, in The Guardian.)

Karen MacPherson talks to Anthony Horowitz on the release of his final Alex Rider novel Scorpia Rising for Scripps News Service.

And, don't mis Horowitz's own "Why am I killing off my hero? It's elementary, of course" in the Daily Mail.

Tarra Gaines speaks with Rebecca Stead for CultureMap.Houston.

Did you know Waterstones did not have teen sections?  Well, now they will.

Kurt Rabin interviews Steve Watkins about his new YA novel What Comes After for (The Free Lance-Star).

Eric Volmers talks with author Cathy Ostlere, whose YA novel Karma is out this month in the US and Canada, for The Calgary Herald.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Reading "The Pigman" in 2011

When I was in middle school, Paul Zindel was my favorite writer.  I remember liking especially The Undertaker's Gone Bananas and Confessions of a Teenage Baboon.  I think Zindel appealed to me as a 13-year-old reader because in the late 1970s, there were few books written just for teens.  (Lois Duncan was another writer I loved.)  And Zindel's books, even when funny, are always tinged with a hint of darkness, something I found intriguing against the backdrop of my sunny Southern California childhood.

I read Zindel's The Pigman again just last month with my students in a Young Adult literature course.  I was curious as to how Zindel's 70s sensibilities would hold up with today's readers, myself included.  The answer is that--despite some antiquated slang and obsolete objects (a typewriter provides the novel's frame)--The Pigman holds up quite well indeed.

As a reminder, here's the basic plot of The Pigman.  John and Lorraine are two high-school loners who become unlikely friends.  John is good-looking, but wild, while Lorraine is a quiet good girl with self-esteem issues.  Paul and Lorraine spend an afternoon together making crank calls, and as a result of their activities meet Mr. Pignati, the Pigman.

Mr. Pignati is a childlike older man, who enjoys the zoo, encourages John and Lorraine to rollerskate in the house,  and introduces them to new foods, like escargot and chocolate covered ants.  Mr. Pignati also has a secret: He hasn't come to terms with his beloved wife's death and tells the kids she's off visiting a relative.

The truth comes out just before Mr. Pignati has his first heart-attack.  While he's in the hospital, John and Lorraine throw a huge party, complete with drinking, general mayhem, and the borrowing and breaking of Mr. Pignati's beloved objects.  John and Lorraine have a little time to begin making ammends, but before their relationship with the Pigman is healed, the Pigman suffers another heart attack and dies.

It's a brutal little novel, but one that stills reads well today.  Here's what my students and I found in 2011:
  • While the framing device for the story (a project for English class) seems dated (probably because it has been imitated so frequently), the dual narration works.  My female students (27 of 30 are women, it must be noted) found Lorraine's voice in particular to be authentic and compelling.  Here's what they had to say about Zindel's dual narration in The Pigman.
  • The issues Zindel highlights--teenage alienation, problems with adult authority figures, self-esteem issues, and anxiety about growing up--still resonate today
  • The students found the Pigman a realistic and sympathetic character, even though most of them said that their parents were more protective in the 2000s than John and Lorraine's were in the 1970s.
  • One thing I noticed this read round was the power of the party scene.  When I read The Pigman as a child, I understood that John and Lorraine should not have thrown a party in the Pigman's house while he was convalescing in a hospital.  As an adult, it become clear how painful a betrayal that act was.
What do you think of The Pigman in 2011?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Weekend (and Crossover) Reviews

Here are the (late) YA/Crossover reviews from major media sources, March 14-20:

Monica and Hannah McRae Young review books for young readers in the Winston-Salem Journal.  They provide capsule reviews for a number of YA novels in verse (Dizzy in your Eyes, by Pat Mora; Orchards, by Holly Thompson; Glimpse, by Carol Lynch Williams; Karma: A Novel in Verse, by Cathy Ostlere), but the one that goes on my to-read list is So Shelley, by Ty Roth, for this description: "This dark novel is not for the easily shocked or naive reader.  The author has re-created characters around the Romantic Age British poets--Keats, Byron and Shelley--with a plot that is both gruesome and strangely evocative."

Melinda Bargreen reviews "three new novels by Kristin Hannah, Anjali Banerjee and Lise Saffran, all set on islands in the Pacific Northwest" for The Seattle Times.  Night Road, by Kristin Hannah, looks like it would appeal to teen readers.

Mary Quattlebaum reviews five new YA titles for The Washington Post, including Ruta Sepetys's Between Shades of Gray, a novel I want to read: "Few books are beautifully written, fewer still are important; this novel is both."

Meghan Cox Gurden also reviews Between Shades of Gray for the Wall Street Journal.

Karen MacPherson reviews poetry for kids of all ages including a volume by and for teens, Falling Hard, edited by Betsy Franco, in The Washington Post.

Linda Elisabeth Beattie considers Sarah Collins Honenberger's Catcher, Caught for The Courier-Journal.

Philip Marchand reviews Tim Wynne-Jones's Blink & Caution for the National Post The Afterword page. Marchand discusses what makes a novel YA in the review.

Susan Carpenter reviews Brandon Mull's Beyonders in The Kansas City Star.

And here's a kid-review of a YA title in the Guardian: SophieDophie writes about My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, by Annabel Pitcher.

Meneesha Govender reviews Jennifer Lynne Barnes's Raised by Wolves for IOL (South Africa):  ("Raised by Wolves is packed with intriguing and supernatural escapism that should have many teen readers hooked. I wonder if it’s going to become a new hit series?")

Pam Norfolk reviews John Grisham's YA novel Theodore Boone: Half the Man, Twice the Lawyer for The Clitheroe Advertiser and Times.

Susan Carpenter considers Blake Nelson's Recovery Road and Nic Sheff's We All Fall Down for The Los Angeles Times' "Not Just for Kids" column.  ("A novel and a memoir teenage drug addiction and rehab is seen from the addict's perspective.")

Alice Jones reviews Godspeed: The Kurt Cobain Graphic for The Independent.

Here's a review of the adult-->YA Crossover Title I'm listening to now: Judy Romanowich Smith talks Kate Morton's The Distant Hours for The Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune.  ("A tale of pure mystery and delight.")

Mary Harris Russell reviews a younger YA title, Angel in my Pocket, by Ilene Cooper, in The Chicago Tribune.  Harris Russell also provides a capsule review for Shaun Tan's Lost and Found with John Marsden's The Rabbits.

Weekend (and Crossover) News

I know it's already Tuesday, but a busy weekend leads to a late news roundup.  Better late, than never, I hope!  Here's the "news" from March 14-20:

Corey Wittig talks Alex Awards in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Sarah Pekkanen writes of girls and boys and the gender divide in children's and teen books for The Washington Post. She begins with a discussion of Forever, a book my students will be blogging about soon.

Kimberly Morgan discusses "More Than Just Vampires and Wizards: Why Young Adult Fiction is Worth Your Time and Money" for Yahoo's Associated Content network.

I don't know about you, but I loved coloring books as a teen--especially intricate ones designed for adults.  Maria Popova reviews five such coloring books for The Atlantic.

Check out the finalists for the Lambda Literary Award here at School Library Journal.

Don't miss Sally Lodge's interview with Cheryl Klein on the publication of Second Sight: An Editor’s Talks on Writing, Revising, and Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults in School Library Journal.

You will find lots of YA and Crossover titles recommended by Philip Pullman, Michael Morpurgo, Katy Guest, John Walsh, and Michael Rosen in "The 50 Books Every Child Should Read" article in The Independent.

Adrian Chamberlain profiles YA novelist Susan Juby on the occasion of the publication of her first adult novel, The Woefield Poultry Collective, for The Times-Colonist (Victoria & Vancouver Island).

Aric Davis, who has previously written thrillers for adults, takes on YA with Nickel Plated and thinks about the boundaries of violence when writing for teens. (In the Wall Street Journal SpeakEasy blog.)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Weekend (and Crossover) Reviews

Susan Carpenter reviews Brandon Mull's Beyonders for the Los Angeles Times's "Not Just for Kids" column.

Bill Eichenberger reviews David Halperin's Journal of a UFO Investigator: A Novel for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. (" much a philosophic treatise as it is a voyage through fantastical worlds")

Summer Moore considers the seventh in James Patterson's Maximum Ride series Angel in the Winston-Salem Journal. (..."a strong installment in the series. It is full of fight scenes mixed with puppy love and many fantastic flying descriptions that will make readers wish they had wings.")

Sharon Galligar Chance reviews Ireland-centered books, one of them a Young Adult title (The Book of Tomorrow, by Cecelia Ahern), for the Ventura County Star. ("Ahern, who is the daughter of the former prime minister of Ireland, is well known for her sassy, brassy, chick-lit novels, and "The Book of Tomorrow" is no exception to the rule.")

Jodi Delong reviews a flipbook ("...two stories, back to back... you read one story by one author, and then flip the book over to read the second story") for teens by Christy Ann Conlin for The Chronicle Herald (Halifax).

Darcey Steinke reviews Judy Blundell's Strings Attached for the New York Times.

Meghan Cox Gurdon reviews Tim Wynne-Jones's Blink & Caution for the Wall Street Journal.  Gurdon finds the book good, but objects to some of the language and imagery: "...perhaps because the book is so skillfully wrought, one wishes that it could have been written without not just foul language but also foully specific images, such as that of a 16-year-old girl sleeping with a sadistic drug dealer." Hmmm....I'm putting Blink & Caution next on my crossover-reading list.

Graham Moore reviews the new Sherlock Holmes YA, Death Cloud, by Andrew Lane for the New York Times. (The NYT is a bit behind with their YA reviews this month.  Strings Attached and Death Cloud have been reviewed elsewhere for weeks.  Oh, but here's a new title: Pamela Paul takes a look at Deadly, by Chibarro, in the Children's Bookshelf column: "...the rare Y.A. novel in which a girl’s intellectual interests trump adolescent romance.")

Karen MacPherson reviews books for kids with disability themes for  Two of the titles MacPherson discusses are Jordan Sonnenblick's After Ever After and Antony John's Five Flavors of Dumb.

Molly Fischer considers Tea Obreht's The Tiger's Wife in the The New York Observer. Fischer begins the review with "A young-adult novel is like porn: hard to define, but you know it when you see it" and compares The Tiger's Wife, which has been reviewed positively elsewhere, to a children's or YA novel in its structure and themes.  In other words, a crossover book, but not in a good way, at least according to Fischer.

Christy Ann Conlin (whose own YA novel was reviewed this week by Jodi Delong and cited in this post) reviews Michelle Paver's first adult novel Dark Matter: A Ghost Story for The Globe and Mail.  (Paver is the author of the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series.)

Weekend (and Crossover) News

For the teens who loved Hardwicke's Red Riding Hood, there are tie-ins available: Liesl Bradner highlights Daniel Egneus's seriously-beautiful illustrated version of Little Red Riding Hood for the Los Angeles Times Jacket Copy blog and Susan Carpenter tells of the ebook version of the Red Riding Hood film written by Sarah Blakley-Cartwright, also in the Los Angeles Times.

Lee Wind interviews Jodi Picoult for  Wind asks, "you have a huge teen and young adult following...Does awareness of your teen readers shape your writing?"  And Picoult answers:
I love my teen fans. First of all, they're not shy. They write me all the time and talk about how much they enjoy my books, and who wouldn't like that kind of feedback!?...I love teen narrators because they have a built-in BS meter. They won't let you get away with a lie; they always cut to the heart of the matter. 
This is an excerpted question and answer.  Don't miss the entire exhange!

Last week I linked to an interesting article on teen books today in India, and this week there's a fascinating article on feminist publishing in India and its growing success on (&The Wall Street Journal).  One feminist house, Zubaan, has a new imprint for children ("upt to teens") called Young Zubaan.  Commissioning Editor Anita Roy says this is foucs is due to the fact "children’s books in India are conservative, preachy, derivative and just not very good."

Tad Vizner profiles Amanda Hocking, the young writer who made tons of money selling her YA fiction in self-published ebook format, for Interestingly, Hocking credits bookbloggers, to whom she sent print-on-demand copies of her books, with her early success.

Do you want your teen or tween to read "great books" they haven't read in school?  Then check out this article on "Great Books Camp" in The Christian Science Monitor.

Marlene Charnizon rounds up what teens are checking out from public libraries for The School Library Journal

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Review: These Things Hidden

Crossover: Adult-->Teen

I picked up Heather Gudenkauf's These Things Hidden on the recommendation of my mother.  Her description of the book as a mystery set in Iowa intrigued me.  Lots of "literary fiction" has been set in Iowa, but very little mystery.  Let's face it, Iowa isn't all that mysterious.

Unless you're a 21-year-old golden girl being released from prison to a halfway house in Linden Falls. (Cedar Falls?)  Allison Glenn narrates the first chapter of These Things Hidden as her lawyer takes her from prison to her new home.  We experience Allison's fear and insecurity as it becomes clear that her parents and little sister Brynn have no interest in talking to her.  Allison's crime, despite the fact that she has served only 5 years of a 10-year sentence, was just that terrible.  Allison, the reader learns, hid a pregnancy and threw her newborn baby into the river in an attempt to cover up her crime.

Four women, the youngest being Brynn, narrate These Things Hidden and the story unfolds in real time.  In addition to Brynn and Allison, two other residents of the Linden Falls area take part in the story--Claire, a woman in her early forties and bookstore owner, and Charm, a young woman caring for her dying stepfather and a frequent visitor to Claire's bookstore.  Children play an important role in the novel as Claire has an adopted son, Joshua, who was the first beneficiary of the Safe Haven law enacted in Iowa after Allison killed her baby.

These Things Hidden will appeal to teen readers; Perfectionism and "ruining your life" with one mistake play an important role in the novel.  These Things Hidden is also truly suspenseful.  Just when I thought I had the story all figured out, an aspect of the relationships between the four narrators surprised me.  I also appreciated that These Things Hidden doesn't judge its characters, doesn't put them to some ultimate moral test.   Allison Glenn did kill her baby after a pregnancy she hid from her family and peers. The reader cares about her progress, nonetheless.

These Things Hidden is highly recommended for readers ages 14 and up.
My copy of These Things Hidden was purchased as an e-book, a format I am becoming more and more fond of for many reasons--environmental and convenience (I read These Things Hidden during a fourth-grade basketball tournament) first among them.
And...These Things Hidden is another entry for Travis's Cover Curiosity: Cons-istantly Covered post!

Monday, March 7, 2011

What I Liked in 2010 (Part II)

Um, it's March 7, and I probably should be moving on...but here's the second part of my What I Liked in 2010 (the year I read only adult fiction) post.

John le Carre continues to have something new to say with each novel. Our Kind of Traitor is particularly interesting because le Carre has not missed the changes that have occurred in the former Soviet Union and beyond its borders where many of its former citizens live. The young British protagonists of Our Kind of Traitor stumble into a Russian "family" living in Switzerland and end up being hired to broker a deal with the wealthy leader of this clan on behalf of the British government. To the end of the novel it is not clear who is good and who is bad, who is moral and who is amoral, and the protagonists are both drawn to and repelled by the Russian family with whom they negotiate.

Crossover Potential? Some. This novel might appeal to the teen well versed in spy novels, but Our Kind of Traitor is a quiet spy novel, concerned more with moral ambiguity than with high-pressure negotiations and chase.

Ian McEwan's Solar was the funniest book I read in 2010. McEwan's protagonist, Michael Beard, is a Nobel prize winner in Physics and a mess. As the book opens, he's losing his fifth wife to his builder. This humiliation leads him to accept an invitation to the Arctic, where he nearly loses his penis when peeing outdoors. (Strangely enough, Solar was one of two books from 2010 featuring grave penile injury.) After his return home, Beard accidentally kills someone, steals his scientific work (on purpose), and heads out on a series of misadventures, one of which involves a solar energy project in Arizona. Other women, a child, and disastrous business deals ensue. Beard is a loathsome character, but one absolutely worth following to the bitter end.

Crossover Potential? Not really. But if you're an adult, don't miss Solar.

Lionel Shriver's So Much for That is one brutal book. Shriver takes an unflinching, merciless look at health care in the U.S. through the lives of two couples--Shep and Glynis Knacker and Jackson and Carol Burdina. Shep dreams of escaping the U.S. with the money he made from selling his business when he learns that his wife has mesothelioma. The novel marks time by the shrinking of Shep's escape fund, dollar by dollar, as he cares for his "insured" wife. Jackson and Carol parent a chronically ill and disabled daughter, whose care takes up all their resources and time. This is not the stuff of happy marriages, happy families, and happy novels. (So Much for That is the second novel of 2010 in which penile injury plays a significant role.) Despite, or perhaps because of, the trauma it inflicts, So Much for That is a novel that makes you think. I loved its brutality and its honesty.

Crossover Potential? Honestly? I don't think anyone younger than 40 should read this book.

My favorite novel of 2010 was Gary Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story. Set in the near future, when everything about one's life (cholesterol levels, weight, credit score) is available for the world to see and when immortality is nearly achievable, Super Sad True Love Story is narrated by hapless lovers Lenny Abramov and Eunice Park. Abramov is the 39-year-old son of Russian-Jewish immigrants who works for an international corporation in the business of keeping people young. Park is in her early 20s, and after a stint in Italy is not sure what she is going to do with her life. Park and Abramov end up together, Abramov more invested in the relationship than Park. Super Sad True Love Story is indeed a sad story about the collapse of America, the futility of clinging to youth, the emptiness of consumerism, and the weight of an endless stream of information. But it is, in the end, a love story narrated by two compelling individuals unable to overcome body, history, generation, and time.***

Crossover Potential? Some. Shteyngart gets Eunice Park's voice just right. She sounds like a young adult and lives as a young adult might a few decades into the future.

Everyone loved Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad. Heck, Judy Blume tweeted her appreciation for Egan's innovative novel just today. Told in a variety of voices and from different points in time, A Visit from the Goon Squad has its genesis in the 1970s music scene in San Francisco. It's difficult to describe Egan's novel, as the story and the storytellers shift locations, relationships, and places in time. Time, ultimately, is the center of Goon Squad--a center that can't be fixed.

Crossover Potential? Some. I think teens will appreciate Egan's approach to telling a story. In particular, I think they will find the concluding power point presentation intriguing.
*** I listened to Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story. This is a good choice for audio; Voice is the strength of the novel. However...bad accents in audio books drive me crazy. I really only know Russian well enough to be annoyed by how badly it is rendered in an audiobook, but if the Russian drives me crazy, I can only guess how badly Chinese, or German, or any other language is spoken in audio. Why don't publishers hire people to read who actually speak the other language present in the book? Why? Why don't they?
Okay, I am truly done with 2010. Time to move on. This week I will finally get to the mission of this blog and review YA fiction from Mal Peet that adults should read and two adult novels by Heather Gudenkauf teens will love.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Weekend News

Here's the news for the first week of March. As might be expected a lot of it relates to the launch of the Guardian's kids- (and teens-) only site.

First up: A note to parents and guardians, by Michelle Pauli, on how to sign up and use the new site.

More on World Book Day from the Guardian:
Here's a fun article in The Daily Texan about Sarah Pitre and Jenny Bragdon, the bloggers behind Forever Young Adult.

And here's an interesting piece: 10th-grader Yadi Angeles asks "Why are Teen Novels so Dark?" in The Philly Post. Yadi writes, "Teen novels seem so dark these days because as we grow and mature, the need to relate grows within us, and so we see ourselves in others."

Here's a fascinating article about teen fiction in India: Madhusree Chatterjee writes for Sify: India News Portal, "After decades of publishing books for adults and children, publishers are now targeting the young adults segment, which is through with its quota of Enid Blytons. On offer is a quaint mix ranging from thrillers to vampire romance."

Weekend Reviews

Welcome to the first Weekend Reviews of March. I hope spring has sprung where you live; We in Smalltown remain hopeful, as 30s and 40s with "wintry mix" isn't bad for this time of year.

For young teens (tweens): Karen MacPherson reviews Amy Ignatow's The Popularity Papers for Scripps Howard News Service (linked here to The Seattle Times).

Kelly Keaton's Darkness Becomes Her is reviewed in The Delta News Star. ("The setting is 13 years into the future, after devastating hurricanes strip New Orleans, and the federal government gives up on the city. A group of nine families within New Orleans 'buy' the Crescent City and develop the French Quarter for tourism, calling the city 'New 2'" But New Orleans remains outside the United States boundaries, what Ari and others call 'The Rim.')

Barbara Bell reviews Siobhan Vivian's Not That Kind of Girl for the San Jose Examiner. (I definitely want to read this one, having liked Vivian's work before and because of this article.)

Susan Carpenter reviews Cris Beam's I am J for the "Not Just for Kids" column in the Los Angeles Times. ("Beam's deep understanding of the emotional truths of transsexualism is clear. She writes with such intimacy and affection for the subject that, on some levels, reading 'I Am J' feels voyeuristic.")

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Weekend (Teen/Crossover) Book News

In starting up the Weekend Reviews again I am finding that there are as many news stories about teen and crossover books as there are reviews in the mainstream media.

Ian Crouch brings us up to date on the case against Leonora Rustamova (U.K.) in The New Yorker. Rustamova wrote, with her teenaged students, a self-published novel called Stop! Don't Read This, a book in which teen-aged boys, "named after and resembling her students, sell cocaine, skip school, and, at one unfortunate point, practice 'orgasmic moans' that sound like 'the soundtrack to teenage gay porn.'"

Weekend Reviews

Welcome to the final weekend reviews of February! (Crossing fingers for an early spring...)

Crossover Book Alert: Carol Memmott reviews Deborah Harkness's A Discovery of Witches for USAToday. Memmott begins her review with the assertion, "Adults entranced by the kiddie witches and wizards in the Harry Potter series and the teen vampires in the Twilight Saga — you've earned this grown-up tale." Sounds to me like teens will be all over this one. (Nick Owchar also reviews A Discovery of Witches for The Los Angeles Times.)

Meghan Cox Gurden reviews Judy Blundell's Strings Attached for The Wall Street Journal and concludes the positive review with "Adult as well as older teen readers will appreciate the skill with which the author slowly separates the skeins of this tangled story to reveal the violent truth of what Billy once told Kit: "We pack away lies in [our] house like you pack away Christmas."

That's it for this week's reviews, unless I've missed something. Stay tuned for a new weekend link feature at Crossover--Weekend (YA/Crossover) News!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

If you happen to be interested in Russian...

Children's and Young Adult books, check out The Working Group for Study of Russian Children's Literature and Culture, a blog I am running for a professional organization.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Books that Changed Your Life at 16

Don't miss Nina MacLaughlin's post at Flavorwire titled "Books that Rocked Your World at 16 But Fall Flat Now." Her opening paragraph is great: "We all have a few: the books we read when we were young that altered everything. These were the world-changers, the reality-definers, the stories you died over, gushed to your friends about, pushed into the hands of boyfriends and girlfriends, urgently, sincerely. They were pivotal, inspirational, important." Don't you remember that feeling and its inevitable counterpart--disappointment when your friends didn't agree with you?

MacLaughlin returns to those books she read as a teen and now finds lacking. Then she suggests an alternative to read as an adult. She closes with The Catcher in the Rye and the fact that she's yet to find an adult equivalent. Maybe that's because The Catcher in the Rye is, really, a book for teens? At the very least, as Gail Gauthier put it in the comments to one of my posts, Catcher has "cast a long shadow over YA fiction."

MacLaughlin's piece got me thinking, though. Which book rocked my world most at sixteen? Oddly enough, it was a play: Ibsen's "A Doll's House." I wonder if it would stand the test of time for me. I'm guessing it would, but I think I'll read it again soon to find out.

Which books changed your life at 16? Are you still impressed by them today? Have you read a book as an adult that you could honestly say "changed your life"?

The comments on the MacLaughlin piece also are very interesting.

Weekend Reviews

I'm reinstating the Weekend Review posts I used to write at Big A little a. There will be a difference, however: I'll be focusing on Young Adult and potential crossover titles only.

First up this week? Charles McGrath's review of new (and older) teen dystopia for The New York Times. Selected Quote: "What distinguishes this kind of dystopian fiction from its adult counterpart — beyond its being less dire and apocalyptic — is a certain element of earnestness, even preachiness, and the moral is pretty transparent: be yourself. " Liz B. has written a fair-minded rebuttal over at A Chair, a Fireplace & a Tea Cozy.

Susan Carpenter reviews Strings Attached, by Judy Blundell, in the Los Angeles Times."Told from the perspective of 17-year-old Kit Corrigan, the book opens in New York City. The year is 1950. Kit has just finished working her first big-city job in a second-rate Broadway play and is desperate to find a new stage production and living quarters. " Carpenter also reviews Death Cloud: A Novel, by Andrew Lane. Death Cloud is "the first in a young-adult series approved by Conan Doyle's estate, in which British author Andrew Lane casts Holmes as a sleuth-in-training."

One from last week that is not a review of a Young Adult novel. Instead, it's a review by Alan Cheuse for The San Francisco Chronicle of young-adult novelist David Levithan's The Lover's Dictionary.