Thursday, January 31, 2008

Happy trails, Karen Breen!

I've known this news for over a week, but now that it's in SLJ I feel like I can talk about it in this blog: Karen Breen is leaving Kirkus Reviews.

I've been a reviewer of children's and YA books for Kirkus for a little over a year now, with Karen as my editor. Thanks to the wonders of GTalk I've had the opportunity to chat with Karen about things other than books. I have decided, along with Diana Tixier Herald and Cindy Eagan, that Karen is on my list of People I Would Like to Be When I Grow Up. (Yes, technically, I am a grownup, but I think we should all have aspirations all our lives, don't you?). I'll also admit that I'm terrified of her! How else should you feel about the children's book editor of what you consider one of the best review journals out there? Karen is a force to be reckoned with and I hope to see her around ALA conventions in the future.

Karen, should you read this, thank you for all your guidance and the opportunity to review some terrific books. I wish you the best.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

SVH 2.0

I know the Random House book most people are clamoring for right now is Christopher Paolini's Brinsingr, but I'm not one of the clamoring. Mostly because I don't read fantasy. What I do read, however, is chick lit. Lots and lots of chick lit. Growing up in the mid-'90s, the premier chick lit franchise was the delightfully cheesy Sweet Valley High series. There's a certain camaraderie among Sweet Valley fans. We like to reminisce about the endless descriptions of out-there clothes, pick our favorite twin (I'm definitely an Elizabeth), and if Zazzle or CafePress had been around back then I'm sure we'd have a spate of t-shirts that proclaimed TEAM JEFFREY or TEAM TODD.

And now, those t-shirts can be ours.

Starting in April, Random House is reissuing the Sweet Valley High series. Everyone's favorite blonde, five-foot-six, lavaliere-wearing identical twins are back in all their identical-but-couldn't-be-more-different glory. Random, bless them, gave out galleys at ALA Midwinter, so I picked one up and read it.

What you may consider spoilers will follow. If you're spoiler-sensitive, now may be a good time to click your back button.

At their cores, the SVH books are still the same. They're still about life in sunny, middle-class Southern California. Jessica and Elizabeth's personalities are still the same. Jessica still schemes and ruins Elizabeth's clothes, and Elizabeth still prefers spending time with a few close friends over going to parties. Some details from the original series are changed. The twins no longer drive a Fiat Spider or hang out at the Dairi Burger. Elizabeth has an anonymous blog instead of an anonymous print gossip column. That's the bad news. The good news is that the plot still holds up, more or less.

The greatest thing about the SVH series is that the plots are timeless. Regardless of decade, teens still deal with issues of sibling rivalry, romance, feuding families, annoying but loving older brothers, and gossip. Those themes that drive the SVH series are still relevant today, which is why I think there's a good chance this repackaged series will find a new generation of readers. The other nice thing about the series is that there's no overt sex (at least, not in the first book), so this could be a nice recommendation for those who like "clean" romances or those who want a step up from The Clique but one down from Gossip Girl. Jessica and Elizabeth certainly like boys, but they're not hopping into bed with them. Even though Jessica likes a little danger in her life, she's not stupid enough to stay with the guy who endangers his life (and hers).

And years after I read the first books, I still want Lila Fowler's wardrobe.

crossposted at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

For entertainment purposes only: Harry Potter and personality types

Harry Potter Character Combatibility Test
created with
You scored as Percy Weasley

You are Percy Weasley. You're extremely ambitious and set very high and sometimes unrealistic goals for yourself. You're a stickler for the rules and don't find yourself having much time for play. Be careful, because if you set your mind too much into your goals you can become ignorant and stray away from what's really important.

Percy Weasley


Draco Malfoy


Oliver Wood


Bellatrix Lestrange


Hermione Granger


Harry Potter


Lord Voldemort


Sirius Black


Remus Lupin


Severus Snape


Ron Weasley


Neville Longbottom


Albus Dumbledore


Luna Lovegood


Honestly, this didn't surprise me at all. The questions on the quiz were very similar to what you'd see in a standard MBTI test. In fact, here's a Harry Potter MBTI test that I you'll be surprised at the result...

Pirate Monkey's Harry Potter Personality Quiz
Harry Potter Personality Quiz
by Pirate Monkeys Inc.

On every MBTI test I take, I score off the charts as an ESTJ. That's not surprising; ESTJs are the most common personality type, making up more or less 10% of the world's population. My second-highest score of Draco Malfoy, according to the Pirate Monkeys quiz, is an ESTP, only one MBTI step and most of a world removed from what I am. Many large companies use MBTI testing as part of their job application or promotion process, but I prefer to use it to analyze fictional characters. Luna Lovegood, for example, is an INTJ and contrary to the Pirate Monkeys label, I think the Weasley twins are textbook ESFPs, like my youngest sister. In my other pop-culture interests, Charlie Eppes and Gil Grissom are INTPs (like my husband), Don Eppes is an ESTJ, Dean Winchester is an ESFJ (SJs are classified as "Guardians" or "Protectors," and Dean is a guardian if I ever saw one), and Sam Winchester...he's a little harder to figure out but I'd say he's closest to an ISTP.

So there's your dose of psychology for the day.

Unpopular opinions and the Edwards Award

Scroll down on this page to the link to "Edwards Award goes to controversial anti-gay author" at . YPulse's comment is: Ug. How did this happen? This feels like a mistake that no one will admit to.

You know what? If I were on this year's Edwards committee, I'd fully admit to that "mistake." Only it's not a mistake. Normally I like what YPulse has to say about books and reading, but in discussing the Edwards award they completely missed the mark.

Kimberly Paone and Roger Sutton are absolutely right in their statements to School Library Journal. The politically correct answer is that it's icky that Orson Scott Card got what is more or less the YALSA Lifetime Achievement Award for a book, but political correctness does not and should not have any bearing on the Edwards Award. If we hold Orson Scott Card to a certain standard then we must hold ALL the recipients to that standard, and that would be ridiculous because the scope of the award is not based on an author's life or personal thoughts. It's based on his or her art and contribution to the YA genre. There's a possibility that in 10 years, David Levithan will be given the Edwards for Boy Meets Boy, and couldn't the same argument be made then, that his writing about positive, fun GLBT characters is somehow wrong and corrupting of teenagers? I may not feel that way personally, but I guarantee that many people do today and will ten years from now. If Card should be chastised and denied an award for speaking his mind on GLBTQ people, then couldn't Levithan be chastised and denied that same award for doing the same, only in the opposite direction?

In many aspects of life librarians have to separate the personal from the professional. There's one author whose books I don't like at all and usually don't recommend, but I think the author is a great person. I hated more than one book I voted for at Popular Paperbacks this year because I knew that despite my dislike of them, they fit the charge of the committee perfectly. I review for Kirkus and VOYA and my separation of personal and professional is tested on a near-daily basis when writing for those publications. Giving awards and positive reviews to books and authors is almost never a black-and-white issue.

Try again, YPulse. It's not all about you.

The amount of paper required for Paper Towns?

Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with Dutton or Penguin or Hank or John Green. I'm just a casual observer with an interest in numbers (and Numb3rs).

Yesterday, YA author John Green and his brother, environmentalist Hank Green, spoke on NPR's All Things Considered about their Brotherhood 2.0 video blogging project. Brothers Reconnect Using Video Blogging. I have all my usual thoughts about the Brotherhood 2.0 project of course: Nerdfighters rule! Why didn't I think of this, because my sister is totally a YouTube star in the making? Why am I not even half as smart and cool as John and Hank? But my biggest ponderance?

I wonder what the first print run of Paper Towns is going to look like.

Background: Those who know me know that I love book industry gossip. I have this weird ability to remember not just titles and authors of books, but who publishes them. Go ahead, quiz me! I'm fascinated by print runs and galleys and the editing and marketing process. Unrelated (mostly) to this, if I had to make a guess I'd say that the first watchers of Brotherhood 2.0 were YA librarians, because John Green was already quite well known in YA lit circles for having won the Printz Award for his first novel, Looking for Alaska. And of course, since librarians are some of the coolest people in the world, we helped spread the love of Brotherhood 2.0.

B2.0 didn't start until after John had won a Printz honor for his second book, An Abundance of Katherines, so until then there was no question as to the relative popularity of his books. But at Midwinter, Dutton announced a September, 2008 release date for John's third book, Paper Towns. With the popularity of Brotherhood 2.0 (They've been on NPR! In the NYTimes! On more than one EW Popwatch Must List! Front-paged on YouTube!), I'm not wondering if John will come up with something Printzworthy, but how many copies are going to be in the first print run.

I have no idea what the first print runs were of Alaska and Katherines. I can only assume that the first print run of Katherines was noticeably larger than the first run of Alaska. Either way, both of those books came out before John and Hank made their video blog and were featured on NPR, the NYT, etc. I'm not saying that John's books weren't popular, but let's face it, an author who wins a Printz and an honor with his first two books out automatically earns the label of "librarian's author," among others. (Other "librarian's authors:" Chris Crutcher, Ron Koertge, Chris Lynch, for example.) I know many people have gone on to love Alaska and Katherines, but let's face it, they're not Gossip Girl in terms of popularity. Through B2.0, John's found a new readership. There's no way their 16,000+ YouTube subscribers were all YA librarians or otherwise YA literature professionals. Dutton has got to know this, and I am now dying to see how they'll respond to John's internet popularity in the first print run of Paper Towns. 100,000 first printing? 200,000? Oh, the curiosity.

(If anyone from Dutton is reading this, inquiring minds want to know!)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Librarian/reviewer preview: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

There's nothing like a librarian/reviewer preview, let me tell you. Thank you very much to Michelle Fadlalla (a friend of BCCLS!) and everyone at S&S BYR for a very enjoyable morning and previews of some fabulous-looking titles. The highlights:

  • The seventeeth floor of the Simon & Schuster building is a...the best way I can describe it is librarian fairyland. It's white with dark bookcases and accents and is sort of a cross between a S&S museum and Daddy Warbucks's house in the movie Annie. Pictures of their famous authors hang on the walls. The main hallway echoes. And the room where the presentation was held had bookcases built into the walls. I want to live there when I grow up.

  • The guest of honor was John Scieszka, who I've never met in person. The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales is an all-time favorite of mine, so it was squee-inducing to hear him speak. He introduced the audience to his upcoming picture-book series, Trucktown and...SMASH! CRASH! One of the best things about the series is that it emphasizes having fun and making noise, which so often gets lost in all the "educational" books and videos but are so important to child development.

  • I'm not on the 2009 Printz committee, but if I were I'd be saving this book for future reference: You Know Where to Find Me by Rachel Cohn. It's a first-person story of two close cousins, one of whom commits suicide despite having a seemingly perfect life. It has a fabulous sense of place and the characterizations are weird but wonderful. It's a departure from what we usually see from Rachel Cohn, and a wonderful departure at that. Not that Rachel Cohn writes bad books, just that this one is quite different.

  • Perfect You by Elizabeth Scott is a very well structured, yet sad, addition to the chick-lit genre. Without spoiling it, I will say this: I really admired that Scott put the proverbial gun on the mantel in Acts I and II and fired it in Act III. The ending of the book was difficult to read but very well done.

  • Other books I picked up but haven't had a chance to read because I was so busy reading for ALA Midwinter: City of Ashes: The Mortal Instruments, Book 2 by Cassandra Clare, Secrets of my Suburban Life by Lauren Baratz-Logsted, Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter, and Me, In-Between, also by Lauren Baratz-Logsted,

  • Books I didn't pick up at the preview, but am expecting in the mail: Wake by Lisa McMann and I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder

I could occupy myself for a month just with S&S. I really need to change my "books" tag to "so many books, so little time."

Monday, January 14, 2008

Blogging live from the ALA Youth Media Awards

Schneider Family Award: Kami and the Yaks by Andrea Stryler for Young Children's Book, Reaching for Sun by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer for Middle Grades Book, Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby for Teen Book

Theodor Seuss Geisel Award: Honors: First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, Hello Bumblebee Bat by Darrin Lunde, Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler, Vulture View by April Sayre, Winner: There Is a Bird on Your Head! by Mo Willems

Coretta Scott King Award: Winner: Brendan Buckley's Universe and Everything in It by Sundee T. Frazier, Steptoe Award for New Talent Honors: November Blues by Sharon Draper, Twelve Rounds To Glory by Charles R. Smith Jr., King Author Award: Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis; Illustrator Honor: The Secret Olivia Told Me, Jazz on a Saturday Night ; Winner: Let it Shine by Ashley Bryan

Caldecott Award: Honors: Henry's Freedom Box by Kadir Nelson (illus.) and Ellen Levine, First the Egg by Lauren Seeger, The Wall by Peter Sis, Knuffle Bunny Too by Mo Willems Winner: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Newbery Award: Honors: Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis, The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt, Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson, Winner: Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! by Laura Amy Schlitz

Printz Award: Winner: The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean Honors: Dreamquake by Elizabeth Knox, One Whole and Perfect Day by Judith Clark, Repossessed by A.M. Jenkins, Your Own Sylvia by Stephanie Hemphill

Edwards Award: Orson Scott Card, for Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow

Odyssey Awards: Honors: Bloody Jack, Dooby Dooby Moo, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Skulduggery Pleasant, Treasure Island. Winner: Jazz (Walter and Christopher Dean Myers)

Arbuthnot Lecturer: Walter Dean Myers

Batchelder Award: Honors: The Cat, or How I Lost Eternity by Julia Richter, Nicholas and the Gang by Rene Gosenny Winner: Brave Story by Miyuki Miyabe.

Sibert Medal: Honors: Nic Bishop Spiders, Lightship. Winner: The Wall by Peter Sis

Friday, January 11, 2008

Off to Midwinter

It's 11:30 P.M. on Thursday. I've been looking for my ALA badge for three days and have decided to give up and get a new one when I get to Philadelphia tomorrow. My suitcase is packed save for my shampoo and conditioner. I've got extra Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults books in my car, all the agendas and emails I need for my committee meetings printed and in folders, and times and addresses of the various publisher dinners and parties I'm going to in my phone. I've packed my cell phone charger, extra business cards, and various things that belong to other people.

I'm so not ready for this.

Monday, January 7, 2008

My favorite books of 2007

Now that I've finished the last of my must reads from 2007, I thought I'd list my favorites. In no particular order:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Freak Show by James St. James

Dramarama by E. Lockhart

Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin

Beauty Shop for Rent...fully equipped, inquire within by Laura Bowers

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling, but only if I pretend that epilogue doesn't exist

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

Cures for Heartbreak by Margo Rabb

A Swift Pure Cry by Siobhan Dowd

Boy Toy by Barry Lyga (which, as much as I loved the others, is probably my top favorite book of 2007)

Before I Die by Jenny Downham

The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

I'm starting to dip into my 2008 galleys and am anxiously awaiting a mailing from Penguin.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Results of the 2008 Mock Awards

(It's not like me to go a month without posting, but I've been on vacation, and very busy with the Mock Awards and the events of ALA Midwinter coming up.)

Crossposted to the Mock Awards blog:

This year's Mock Awards were lots of fun, with provocative and informative discussions. The winning and honor books were selected as follows:

Mock Caldecott

Winner: The Wizard by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Brandon Dorman

Honors: When Dinosaurs Came With Everything by Elise Broach, illustrated by David Small ; Casey Back at Bat by Dan Gutman, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou
Fancher ; I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry ; Knuffle Bunny Too: A
Case of Mistaken Identity
by Mo Willems.

Mock Newbery

Winner: Revolution is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine

Honors: Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis ; The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

Mock Printz

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Honors: Before I Die by Jenny Downham ; Boy Toy by Barry Lyga

Many thanks to those who made this program so successful.