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Category Archives: Cover Love

Cover Love

Covers are integral for selling a book without having to say a word (as well as titles, but that is a blog post for another day). If put on the spot, the kind of covers I drool over are Sarah Cross’ Beau Rivage series, Ellen Hopkins hardcovers, George O’Connor’s Olympains graphic novels, and standalones that capture the mood of the book like Out of Darkness and And We Stay.

So I took the opportunity to capture the beauty of a new book to be released in October that I had an advanced copy for, E.K. Johnston’s (Exit, Pursued by a Bear) That Inevitable Victorian Thing. Not only is the cover art gorgeous, when you really look at it, the artist understood the book as well. Plus, the content is an intriguing alternate history with GLBTQ characters, picturesque settings, and lovable secondary characters.

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Teens will keep interested in the content, but likely what will draw them in if a librarian isn’t there to recommend it is the cover. What other covers do you adore? I can say for certainty that I would poster-print Cross’ covers and hang as wall art if I had the wall space. Well… we are remodeling our house, so maybe this is a real possibility.

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Then, what’s really underneath it all, too? Anne Blankman shared her love for the hardcover where publishers put thought into what’s underneath. Understandably I now strip all my hardcovers to see what’s underneath. Ever done it? You should, you might be a winner! Pun intended– because the last book that I fell in love with was You May Already Be a Winner for it’s navy hardcover with a complimenting golden ribbon along the spine.

Your mission next time you’re holding a book in your hands is to take a few minutes to appreciate the design of the cover. And if it’s a hardcover, see what’s underneath it all *wink wink*.

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2017 in Cover Love, Fiction, Graphic novels, Young Adult

 

They’re not just words, but a full orchestration on bathroom walls

WordsonBathroomWallsSites like Edelweiss and Netgalley that provide advanced reader copies of titles are perfect for the librarians who want to get ahead. We want to know what’s coming soon, so the books are on the next shipment in upon publication. My strategy on both sites is never say, strategic, it is more about surveying the landscape: a mix of new authors and seasoned ones, series that I follow, or topics that are trending. Oftentimes with topics and trends, it’s taking a leap of faith on new authors usually because of a snappy summary, awesome title, or eye-grabbing cover.

I can’t remember exactly why I chose to request Words on Bathroom Walls by Julia Walton but likely it was the tag regarding mental health. Now I admit, everything related to this topic is reflected against Neal Shusterman’s Challenger Deep *cue book hug and swoon.* So when I got a few pages in… and then a few pages more… and then full chapters and chapters until I was ignoring everything else to finish it, I was blown away by my response to a book about a male teenager with diagnosed schizophrenia undergoing a new experimental drug and seeing a therapist while changing schools and meeting an intelligent life force in a girl named Maya.

  1. A female writer capturing the insights of a male protagonist so well that I went back twice to remind myself that she was in fact a female writer.
  2. How can this book make me laugh when the book is also seriously discussing schizophrenia in a teenager? It is a beautiful dichotomy and portrays the humanity of all, including those with a mental health issue.
  3. The familial relationships are (just one of many) very real representations of families. There are healthy adult relationships, divorce, loving parents, grandparents, new babies, broken relationships, and more.
  4. Sex. The funny, the true, the butterflies, the necessary conversations that Adam wanted to have with readers about his experiences with Maya. Adam was indeed the most memorable character, though I found Paul, Adam’s stepdad a unique voice in Adam’s narrative. The conversation in which Paul tells Adam where to find condoms in the bathroom was just perfect.
  5. I panicked at the very beginning as it is epistolary and I briefly eye-rolled at the cliche, but it worked. So well. Seeing a therapist and not wanting to talk, so he talks and takes jabs in writing. It worked. So well.
  6. It references the historical event in Newtown, Connecticut from December 2012 when a mentally unstable young man took the lives of twenty-six people: twenty school children and six adults. This was a memorable scene and quote for me as a reader

“They didn’t mean you, Adam.”

“They did, they just didn’t know they meant me.” I don’t think I’ll ever forget that feeling, when I learned what someone would say if they knew my secret. What they really thought about people with my condition. Not the fake comforting words they’d give that other people would hear. The real words in their heart. If they knew I was a threat, they’d tell me to kill myself. They’d think I was a monster.

I will tell you that I had no less than thirteen quotes, highlighted paragraphs, or bookmarked pages that I wanted to revisit once I finished reading it and plenty of experiences that Adam references that helped me better understand (albeit fictionalized but researched) a person with schizophrenia. At one point Adam discusses the very real problem of not knowing whether music playing when he’s entering a Starbucks is really playing inside the Starbucks rather than in his brain. He uses cues from other people quite frequently to filter out his brain versus reality.

Walton’s portrait is a fully-realized masterpiece that I can only compare to a symphony. Each element of story is tuned to perfection and that is a testament to her writing ability and gift for storytelling. This book has sat with me each day since reading it like others than capture a fundamental story.

So before I finish, I’ll share other recent books that capture a fundamental narrative that I advise reading:

  1. The Serpent King by Jeffrey Zentner (relationships, aspirations and goals, family)
  2. Bad Girls with Perfect Faces by Lynn Weingarten (revenge, relationships)
  3. Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner (legacy, friendship)
  4. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (choices, family)
  5. Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist (choices, self-discovery, savvy)

FiveFundamental

 
 

You may already know her, but know her newest book too

YouMayAlreadyBeAWinnerTwo days after its book birthday, I’m posting about Ann Dee Ellis’ newest middle grade You May Already Be a Winner. I had wanted to post last week when I read it on a sunny day in the backyard in my camp chair, but never got around to it. But now that it’s available, I must so that all can purchase, read, and enjoy Ellis’ work from Dial Books an imprint of Penguin Books.

The book is focused on character development in a beautifully heart-wrenching way, so our memorable character is actually the main character, Olivia, a middle schooler who has had adulthood thrust upon her. In charge of the social, emotional, and academic well-being of her younger sister, it’s been weeks since Olivia has been to school herself. But when the school threatens action against her mother for Olivia’s truancy, Olivia is sent back to school, with her small sister in tow. Rather than call attention to their issue, Olivia thinks she can hide her in a closet. To say that Olivia is overwhelmed with adult issues is an understatement made more complicated by an intriguing boy who shows up one day and the question of where her father actually is and whether he’s coming back.

This pressure is perfectly summed up in the later stages as the weight of it all begins to be too much with one of the many memorable quotes: “In that moment I felt exhausted. But mad. But exhausted.” This pressure continues and comes a head at school when her little sister is discovered and mom is called– forced to share the details of what’s been happening at home.

None of my descriptions so far have shared the tone of the book which is of quiet desperation. As adult readers, we’re forced to tears, knowing what Olivia needs but is not getting. As middle grade readers, students will see themselves or their friends who struggle with overwhelmingly adult responsibilities and empathize. So when Olivia finally can’t hold it in any longer (Go, Olivia!) I was secretly cheering her frustration to adults, specifically a staff member at school.

Memorable scene:

“‘I understand you are having some home issues.’ I say, ‘I understand you have bad hair.’

He laughs. I don’t laugh.

Olivia needs love and her childhood and instead gets parents who are trying to make the right decisions for themselves and ultimately their children but are not turning out that way. She’s angry when she finds out her mother is only a few doors away in their trailer park. She’s angry that her father won’t commit to coming back to the family. She’s angry that the boy she was falling for ratted her family out to the school. BooksforWeary

And while I’m not one to enjoy happier endings, this one did and therefore I could not completely fall in love with the book from start to finish, though I appreciated its intended audience’s need for hopefulness. It is provided.

With a lovely cover that encapsulates the book, a rough and necessary story of a girl in need of her childhood, I advise middle grade and high school students to read it since the topics of family and perseverance never get old. You’ll already be a winner if you decide to pick this one up to read.

 

It’s not “odd” how much I “true”-ly adore Cat Winters’ stories

It’s true that the moment I realized Cat Winters would be at the American Library Association’s annual conference in Chicago, that I resolved to finally meet her. I had already professed my love for Cat Winters’ writing style in this blog post from April 3, 2016 and then having finished her newest Odd and True that will be due out September 12, 2017 just a week before the conference, it solidified her unique storytelling and her articulate and creative writing because after numerous books and short stories that I’ve read of hers I can say: she’s consistently awesome.

First the book, then the picture of when we finally met!

And it all starts for me in telling you when True says to a gentleman in the memorable quote: “Tell little Celia you met a polio survivor who now hunts monsters.” This summarizes both the perseverance of the sisters, Odette and Trudchen, but specifically Trudchen during a point in history in the early 1900s that polio was a debilitating disease and one had to depend on others for help.

So when Odette encourages her sister to escape away from their aunt’s home, it becomes a magical adventure. Which leads to a memorable scene: That split second decision that True makes to get on the train with Odd when Odd returns from years away and little contact. True realizes it’s now or never and gets up from her wheelchair, abandoning it for her leg braces and hightails it on the train, leaving her aunt speechless. It was True drawing a line in the sand. Yet, in second place for a memorable scene is the resolution, which would be a total spoiler if I were to really tell you, so I won’t go there!

But I will go there long enough to tell you that for me, the memorable character while equally shared among the cast of well-developed adults might just have to be the young girl we meet at the end of the story, who we learned about periodically as that thread unfolded throughout the monster-hunting adventures and allowed readers to fall in love with Odd as much as True. It was rich and heartbreaking but why Winters tells an especially captivating tale.

While I missed her at a YA authors speed dating event in the morning, I rushed to her signing on the exhibit floor where I was able to capture the moment when I finally met THE Cat Winters.

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Fangirling aside, I advise you to make yourself a cup of loose leaf tea and hunker down for a dark exploration of monsters and the motivations of one supernatural family.

 

Dear Nic Stone

DearMartinOh, how I love thee. Let me count the ways or at least count down the days until you visit our high school library this coming fall. After reading an advanced copy of your book, Dear Martin, which will grace the shelves on October 17, 2017, we are highly anticipating our students reading it en masse. It’s the timeliness of the topic and the historical significance of Justyce writing to Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s the rich character development and the realistic situations. It’s the deceptively simple writing that is anything but simple. In a nutshell, it’s exceptionally accessible.

Memorable character: Readers are endeared to Justyce right from the beginning and his issues are our issues. But it’s when he begins to dig deeper both with his friends, family, and himself that the learning commences. We are living with and through him. What would we do in situations that he’s in? If we would be in them at all because of our skin and age. Stone eloquently posits these injustices as Justyce writes to Martin Luther King, Jr.

Memorable scene: There are several significant scenes, but the ones that stick out to me are the conversations that happen in Doc’s classroom. They read similar to a transcript and further incorporate alternative formats like Justyce’s letters to King and the narrative itself. These telling scenes provide insight into necessary conversations in understanding a variety of viewpoints: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Memorable quote: Though, one of the most memorable quotes doesn’t come from Justyce’s class discussions, instead one that takes place between him and his mom after a class discussion as Justyce is awakened to the thoughts and feelings of others: “‘Yeah. We had this discussion in class today, and… I don’t know, Ma. Everything I’m doing right now feels like a losing battle.’ She nodded. ‘Hard being a black man, ain’t it?'”

In addition to following her on Instagram, I advise teen readers to read and re-read the book, stare at the phenomenal cover, and pressure your librarians to order multiple copies to share with your friends.

 

The opposite of long

LongWayDownIt only took me half of the train ride from New York City to Albany to devour Jason Reynolds’ newest YA Long Way Down that will celebrate its book birthday October 17, 2017. Yes, we will be ordering multiple copies for our HS library. Yes, we continue to be in awe that our HS library hosted him a month after the release of his co-written All American Boys. Yes, I will read everything that this guy writes. So what’s so special about this book? I’ll start with the most..

Memorable character: By far it’s each person that walks into that elevator with Will and no, I don’t want to explain anything more other than to say that they all have their own agendas, all have their own histories, and add a deeper layer before he makes his weighty decision. Which leads to the most…

Memorable scene: Which is clearly the ending. My favorite kind of ending. The kind that ends similarly to Wink Poppy Midnight by Genevieve Tucholke or The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton, which is to say darkly with a big question mark around what will happen next and, that you’re fairly certain as a reader that the author should never/could never/would never write a sequel that answers the question.

Memorable quote: And when Reynolds’ pulls off an ending like this, it’s true that the entire book was tragically and beautifully written to build the suspense and provide the motivation to do X. And surprisingly, the book is verse. I’ve followed his poetry posts on social media and know he’s gifted, so creating a novel in verse seems like a natural extension of this talent. Rather than ruin it with in-line text, here is a full-page spread in which Dani is asking Will a valuable question:

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So, what’s my advice? If you aren’t lucky enough to land an advance copy, be sure you’re the first in line on October 17th to get your own copy from your independent book store. And if you’re in charge of ordering for a YA collection, I advise you to order multiple copies. You won’t regret it.

 

Six sensational recent reads

Yesterday I had the opportunity to present to a room of librarian colleagues (and a few teachers thrown in for good measure) about the hottest books for 2017 while reviewing some of the best from 2016. But what have I read recently? A lot. But not everything was a home run, so I’m picking through the trash to get to the treasures.

  1. When Breath Becomes Air by Kalanithi
    • An insightful and introspective approach to science and facing death from a doctor experiencing the end to his own short life.
  2. Geekerella by Poston
    • A quirky retake on Cinderella with a Con, a pumpkin food truck, evil twin stepsisters, and one spunky Elle.
  3. The Whydah: A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked, and Found by Sandler
    • Who doesn’t want to find treasure, especially when it unlocks secrets of the past. But it’s significance is in Sandler’s approach which is to demystify pirates and change the bad reputation they have earned that is uncalled for.
  4. The Takedown by Wang
    • Attempting to take down a vile post on the internet isn’t an easy feat, but Kyla is ready for the challenge and has the guts to see it through even when it’s not pretty.
  5. Saints and Misfits by Ali
    • With a rich voice, Janna details those that are saints, misfits (like herself), and saints like others through her eyes as a Muslim teenager where her actions must match her beliefs.
  6. The Book of Chocolate: The Amazing Story of the World’s Favorite Candy by Newquist
    • Who doesn’t love chocolate? The depth and breadth of this book is its strength, learning about the rivalries, chocolate during wartime, and the history of what was really a drink became the world’s favorite candy.