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Bookstore Bakes #1: November Cakes! November 30, 2013

Posted by ccbooks in Bookstore, Nerd Line.
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Possibly the only way to make a great book even better is to add good friends and delicious food. Some of my co-workers at the bookstore (Hooray for Books! which is located at 1555 King St. in Old Town Alexandria) came over a few weeks ago so we could make November cakes, a food from the book The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. Not everyone had read the book, but we were all game to try a recipe that involved orange extract and caramel. So a new blog series was born: Bookstore Bakes! We shall attempt to make this a semi-regular event and meet up to make recipes from books we have read. Here are some photos of how things turned out this time:

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Move over NaNoWriMo, it’s PiBoIdMo too November 28, 2013

Posted by ccbooks in Nerd Line.
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You’ve probably heard of NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel between November 1 and November 30. Hundreds of thousands of people sign up to attempt this challenge each year–and many of them continue working on their projects and eventually get them published. Ana has attempted NaNoWriMo several times (this year it fell by the wayside pretty quickly due to schoolwork, I think) but I’ve never really bothered, since I’m not a novelist.

HOWEVER…I heard that there was a similar project centered around picture books. It’s called Picture Book Idea Month (or PiBoIdMo) and it was dreamed up by picture book author Tara Lazar. Based on her blog, it basically entails coming up with a new picture book idea every day in November. You register for the challenge on her blog and if you finish and sign a pledge saying you actually did come up with 30 ideas, you can win prizes. It’s pretty awesome.

I’ve never tried to write a picture book. I find the idea incredibly intimidating, because I know picture books (good ones) are one of the hardest kinds of writing in the world. But I’m not intimidated by ideas. I come up with those all the time (you can ask the other members of my theater company. They complain that I have too many ideas!) Will any of these ideas ever make it into book form? Who knows? Here are a few random ones–mostly terrible–that I’ve come up with this November.

1. How to Make a Tumble Tower. Not really sure what this book would be about but I like the phrase ‘tumble tower’.  It reminds me of pillow fights.

2. Zombie Pizza. So many people seem to be into zombies now…it kind of sounds like a Peter Reynolds/Adam Rubin kind of book.

3. A tape dispenser runs away from the store because it’s lazy and doesn’t want to work overtime during the holidays. This one is straight from real life. Our tape dispenser at the bookstore keeps disappearing!

ALA Awards: Early Thoughts November 18, 2013

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I guess really it’s not so early. At any rate,  here are my thoughts on possible winners of the top ALA YM Awards.

Newbery: Unlike last year, when Splendors and Glooms stole my heart in June, there is no middle grade book I’m really feeling evangelical about.  There are several that I would be perfectly happy with seeing with stickers though:

The Real Boy by Anne Ursu

The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt

The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kahodata

And I’d probably be happy with Far Far Away by Tom McNeal getting something, although I really hope that teachers won’t just then randomly assign it to kids because it’s an award winner. It’s SCARY.

Printz: My top pick for this is probably Boxers and Saints, which I am still pondering and questioning and wondering about (in a good way). I have greater love for Fangirl but I think Eleanor and Park is in some ways more original.

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

Eleanor and Park or Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Caldecott: These are my top picks. I think right now I’m the only person pulling for Stardines, but I love basically anything that is an homage to Joseph Cornell. There were SO MANY amazing picture books this year!

Stardines Fly High Across the Sky by Jack Prelutsky, illus. Carin Berger

Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales

Journey by Aaron Becker

The Mighty Lalouche by Matthew Olshan, illus. Sophie Blackall

The Dark by Lemony Snicket, illus. Jon Klassen

Favorite New Graphic Novels November 12, 2013

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Here are two very different but equally fantastic graphic novels that I recently read. One was just named a Best Illustrated Book of the Year by the New York Times, and involves my first love among literary classics, Jane Eyre. The other is a humorous and thought-provoking tale of friendship for all ages.

janeJane, the fox and me is by Fanny Britt and illustrated by Isabelle Aresenault, translated from French by Christelle Morelli and Susan Ouriou. Helene’s old friends have turned on her, writing mean comments about her weight in bathroom stalls at school. She takes the bus alone where she reads her new favorite book Jane Eyre and tries to ignore the whispering from the back seats. She struggles through shopping trips for bathing suits with her mother, listens to the music of  the McGarrigle sisters and dreads an upcoming school camping trip. But just like in Jane Eyre, the story ends well, thanks to an encounter with a fox, and an unexpected friend.

One of the strengths of this book is how Helene retells the story of Jane, summarizing it concisely and focusing on details that speak to a young reader. She recounts what I recall as my favorite moment in the book when I was ten,  Jane creating a picture of herself and a contrasting one of Miss Ingram. Helene’s wish to be Jane is evident from her repeating of the phrase “…she grows up to be clever, slender and wise.” When Jane has to leave Rochester, Helene imagines her to be a sausage, the same way she imagines herself in a bathing suit. So it is an even bigger revelation at the end of the book, when Jane ends ups with Rochester, both in love with each other. Something like that would never happen in real life, Helene thinks. Would it? By the end of the Jane, the fox and me, though, Helene believes in happy endings, having found one of her own. This is a wise and wonderful book, perfect for anyone who loves a good story, an outside heroine or yet another proof of the everlasting power of reading.

duckOdd Duck, by Cecil Castellucci and Sara Varon begins with Theodora, a duck who is perfectly happy with her life just as it is. The odd duck is her new neighbor Chad and he has some very strange ideas about swimming, building strange art projects and skating and sledding in winter. Of course eventually they become friends, bonding over stargazing and condiments. But then a snide remark by someone leads to an argument over who exactly is the ‘odd’ one. Will they mend fences? And does it really matter if someone is odd, as long as they are a good friend?

Like Jane, the fox and me, this book sends a gentle message without ever being preachy. The details in both the images and the words are numerous and always funny (Theodora uses an egg replacer when baking, and after the argument with Chad, suffers from ‘general malaise’ and ‘uncontrollable twitchiness’). The story throws a twist at you–we expect Theodora to befriend Chad in the end and to finish with a nice lesson about appreciating those who are different from us. We don’t expect her to have to re-evaluate her own actions and habits and to realize that her relationships with other ducks in the town are perhaps not as friendly as she thinks. However others judge you though, being unique is a good thing, as Castellucci and Varon make clear in this delightful tale.

Review: The Summer Prince November 4, 2013

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princeIt’s no secret that dystopias and futuristic settings have been hugely popular in YA fiction for the last few years. Most of those books involve some level of violence, whether it’s the every-teenager-for-his/herself of The Hunger Games or the faction wars of Divergent. But how many of these teenage rebels fight primarily with art? And have we ever seen a dystopia clearly inspired by a Latin-American country?

Now we have, thanks to Alaya Dawn Johnson’s first YA novel, The Summer Prince. If you like your YA lit with matriarchal societies, subverted love triangles and diversity, here is the book for you.

June lives in Palmares Tres, a tiered city run by a group of older women called ‘aunties’ and led by a queen. In a world where technology has led to longer lifespans, the gap between the ‘grandes’ or older adults and the ‘wakas’ or teenagers is considerable. As a concession, every year the wakas choose a Summer King, who has the power to choose a new queen. But each Summer King is killed at the year’s end. This year, the Summer King is Enki, who will upend every part of June’s life, art and ambitions.

My favorite things about The Summer Prince are June’s growth as a character, the descriptions of her art and how her understanding of the history and structure of Palmares Tres changes. I also love the authenticity of her feelings for Enki and her loyalty to her friend Gil, even as she tries to figure out where her relationship with Enki is heading. The world-building was occasionally a bit cumbersome, and I can’t speak to the authenticity of the elements of Brazilian culture referenced (samba, Carnival, etc). However, I am thrilled to see a YA dystopia with main characters of color and a beautiful cover featuring one of them. Yes, it’s still the ‘headless teenage girl’ image cliche. But at least she has natural hair!