Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Science Fiction at BEA

There has been plenty of good YA fantasy in recent years, thanks to the Harry Potter phenomenon, but good new science fiction for preteens seems to be in short supply. So I'm always on the lookout for interesting new entries in the genre.

  • The Softwire: Virus on Orbis 1 looks like it might be a good one. According to the description, it's an outer-space adventure about an down on his luck orphan who has the ability to enter computers with his mind. The Softwire is due out in September from Candlewick Press.

  • At first glance, The Lighthouse Land looks like fantasy, with the Celtic symbol and mist-shrouded lighthouse on the cover. But on closer examination, it appears that this book really is science fiction. Whatever it is, it looks like an interesting read: a teen descended from Irish kings hasn't spoken since he lost his arm to cancer. He travels from New York to Ireland and eventually to a world many light years away, where he is revered as a hero but finds that his problems are far from over. This is the first YA novel from an author, Adrian McKinty, who is known for his hard-boiled adult crime novels; according to the publisher this book is "as gritty and true as any of his crime novels." The Lighthouse Land will be published in October by Amulet Books.

  • The cover of Larklight declares that this is "A Rousing Tale of Intrepid Pluck in the Farthest Reaches of Space." I'm not sure where this book fits on the science fiction/fantasy continuum, but I put it here because of the outer space connection. According to the publisher, this is "A fantastically original Victorian tale set in an outer space world that might have come from the imaginations of Jules Verne or L. Frank Baum, but has a unique gravitational pull all its own." The book is written by Philip Reeve, author of The Hungry City Chronicles, and illustrated by David Wyatt. This looks to be a funny book that doesn't take itself too seriously, and with chapter titles like, "Chapter Three: In Which We Make Good Our Escape, but Find Ourselves Cast Adrift upon the Uncaring Aether," I assume that the book is a victorian parody of sorts. Larklight is due in October.

New fantasy books at BEA

Here are some of the new and forthcoming fantasy books that looked interesting or noteworthy at BEA:

  • Endymion Spring has all the makings of a successful book: a story that looks intriguing and unique, and a marketing campaign designed to pique curiosity. At BEA, Random House gave out a pamphlet, locked with the book's signature entwined snakes, and containing a golden key with a ribbon reading, "Unlock the Secret." A web site, will gradually reveal more information about the books; currently all sections but the first one are locked. The story does look interesting: a tale of fantasy, mystery and magic that ties in to the invention of movable type printing. Endymion Spring will be available August 22. Keep your eyes on this one!

  • Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson made a splash last year with their Peter Pan prequel, Peter and the Starcatchers. This year, they introduce Peter and the Shadow Thieves, a sequel to the prequel. They have also begun a new series for slightly younger readers which ties in to the Peter Pan stories. The first book, Escape from the Carnivale, will be published in October.

  • The Looking Glass Wars is an alternate version of Alice in Wonderland. Alyss Heart, deposed heir to the Wonderland throne, trusted Lewis Carroll to tell the truth but he got it wrong.

  • The Snow Spider is the first book in The Magician Trilogy, by Jenny Nimmo, author of the Children of the Red King (Charlie Bone) series. The Snow Spider was first published in 1986 and has been out of print for five years. It's shorter than the Charlie Bone books and looks appropriate for a slightly younger (ages 8—12) audience.

  • The Floating Island (The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme), by Elizabeth Haydon and due out in August, looks to be a fantasy adventure structured around the supposed fragments of a lost journal. The book includes illustrations by Brett Helquist, who is most well-known as the illustrator of the Series of Unfortunate Events.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Pop-up books at BEA

Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart have been busy! Several new books by these pop-up artists extraordinaire were featured at BEA.

  • In time for the Christmas shopping season, Simon & Schuster will be releasing a new anniversary edition of Robert Sabuda's The 12 Days of Christmas. This anniversary edition features a new pop-up spread of a Christmas tree complete with working lights! They gave out a blad of this spread at BEA, and it's truly amazing! I keep opening it because I love to look at it. The anniversary edition will also contain a pull-out pop-up Christmas tree ornament.

  • Matthew Reinhart has created a wonderful pop-up version of The Jungle Book. Shere Khan the tiger almost leaps off the page when you open the blad that Simon & Schuster gave out at BEA.

  • Sabuda and Reinhart together have created a sequel to last year's Encyclopedia Prehistorica Dinosaurs from Candlewick Press. The new book, Encyclopedia Prehistorica Sharks and Other Sea Monsters, was released last month and features prehistoric sea creatures.

  • Sabuda and Reinhart now have their own imprint at Scholastic. Their first offering is a pop-up look at medieval castles and knights, written by Kyle Olmon and illustrated by Tracy Sabin. Kyle Olmon also made the pop-ups. Castle will be published in August. You can see a preview of it on the Robert Sabuda web site

Monday, May 29, 2006

BEA: The Year of the Dragon

Dragons seem to be very popular right now, and we saw a several new and forthcoming books at BEA with a dragon theme:

  • Candlewick Press is expanding their popular Dragonology line with several interesting new entries. Dragonology: Tracking and Taming Dragons Volume 1, available now, is a boxed set containing a 24 page handbook on capturing and taming dragons, and a hanging model of a dragon to assemble. The model has gold foil details. Since this is volume 1, I assume there will be other volumes as well, probably with different dragons. Candlewick is also introducing a series of Dragonology themed novels called The Dragonology Chronicles. The first entry, The Dragon's Eye, will be available in December.

  • In October, Hyperion will be publishing The Last Dragon, by Silvana De Mari. The Last Dragon was translated from Italian and tells the story of the last elf and the last dragon, and a prophecy: When the last dragon and the last elf break the circle, the past and the future will meet, and the sun of a new summer will shine in the sky.

  • October will also see the publication of Here, There Be Dragons, by James A. Owen and published by Simon & Schuster. In spite of the title and picture of a dragon on the cover, I'm not sure if there are actually any dragons in the book. It looks interesting nonetheless: three young men come into possession of an atlas of imaginary places, and set off on a voyage to the lands in the atlas.

  • Wizards of the Coast (the Dungeons and Dragons people) has declared this to be the Year of Dragons, with new entries in the popular D&D tie-in series Dragonlance, Eberron, and Forgotten Realms. A Practical Guide to Dragons, due in October, looks like cross between Dragonology and the Dungeons & Dragons Monster manual. It should be of interest to dragon fans as well as D&D players. And after all, who knows dragons better than the D&D people?

  • Wizards of the Coast will also be releasing two new books in their D&D-related series for young readers, Knights of the Silver Dragon. The two books, Prophecy of the Dragons and The Dragons Revealed are a two part story and will be released in June and August, respectively. The Knights of the Silver Dragon series may interest reluctant readers who like to play fantasy/adventure video or role-playing games.

BEA: A preteen's view

For a pre-teen's view of BEA, here's my son's BEA report:

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Me at BEA

In case you're curious to know what I look like, here's a picture of me at one of the dinners I attended during BEA. I'm the one on the right in the black and white striped dress. I'm in good company here; both of the amazing women with me in the photo won awards this weekend. In the center is Deborah Robson, of Nomad Press and Dogtooth Books and publisher of Riddle in the Mountain, which won an "Ippy" (Independent Publisher) award on Friday night. Riddle in the Mountain is a YA time travel adventure in an old-west Colorado mining town, and I gave it a great review in March.

On the left is Maggie Anton, author of Rashi's Daughters, a historical novel about the daughters of a great medieval Jewish scholar. Rashi's Daughters has been sweeping the awards, winning a Benjamin Franklin award, a ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award, a USA Book News Best Books award, and was a finalist for an Ippy award.

Photo courtesy of Jacqueline Church Simonds, Beagle Bay Books
(Jacqueline is another amazing woman I met at BEA, and publisher of another of the weekend's award winners, Women in Shadow and Light: Journeys from Abuse to Healing)

The most hyped book at BEA

The winner for the most heavily promoted book at Book Expo America has to be Abadazad, Disney's new graphic novel/text novel hybrid. To start with, they purchased the main staircase in the convention center as a large advertisement; the image was placed on the risers of the stairs, so that from the bottom of the stairs the entire staircase was one big ad. You can see what it looked like in the attached photo. It was a cool effect, but I'll bet it wasn't cheap! In addition, every badge lanyard given to convention attendees was emblazoned with the Abadazad name.

We picked up a copy of the book, so as soon as I have a chance to read it, I'll let you know if it lives up to the hype!

Photo courtesy of Jacqueline Church Simonds, Beagle Bay Books

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Book Expo America report

I'm back from Book Expo America and boy, am I exhausted. My feet are sore from trudging up and down the aisles of the immense exhibit halls, and my shoulders are sore from lugging bags of free books. Don't you feel sorry for me?

There was a lot to see and do, and I had a great time. On Friday, I saw Sandra Boynton in the aisles talking to someone, and I couldn't help going up to her and telling her how much we loved her books when my son was younger. Her reply, "Oh, you don't anymore?" made me smile, and I had to tell her that I still loved her books, but if I tried to read them to my now preteen son, he'd roll his eyes and say, "Mo-om!"

I also met a nine-year-old author, Reese Haller. His first book, Fred the Mouse was a finalist for the Benjamin Franklin awards and Michigan Notable Books awards nominee. He was a very poised and intelligent young man.

On Friday, we had the kind of schedule conflict that every author dreams about. My husband Nick Ruth was supposed to be at two awards ceremonies at the same time: an awards reception for the winners of the Mom's Choice Award, which his first book, The Dark Dreamweaver won, and the awards ceremony for the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year awards, for which his second book, The Breezes of Inspire was a finalist. So we dropped in to the Mom's Choice reception for a short time, where we got to meet Dr. Twila Liggett, founder of Reading Rainbow, then we snuck in late to the ForeWord awards. He didn't win the ForeWord award, but just being a finalist is an honor.

From a children's literature perspective, it seemed that this wasn't a year of blockbuster/bestseller books, which I think is a good thing. Instead of a couple of books drawing all the attention, we saw quite a few interesting looking books from new voices as well as from established authors. I'll be posting more specifics about the books in another (or probably several) entries. There also weren't as many big name kids lit authors there, although there were a few. We were hoping to meet Rick Riordon, but were unable to connect with him because he was only available during the previously mentioned schedule conflict. I did meet Holly Black briefly as she signed a copy of Valiant for me, and she is beautiful as well as nice. We also missed out on signings by Tamora Pierce and Michael Buckley, although we did manage to snag a copy of The Sisters Grimm: The Problem Child (Book Three). Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson were signing Peter and the Shadow Thieves, but tickets were required for this signing, and we didn't feel like getting to the convention center at 7 AM to get in line for tickets.

We spent a lot of time at the Treasure's Trove booth, where they were promoting Michael Stadther's new book and new treasure hunt, Secrets of the Alchemist Dar. For the new hunt, he has hidden 100 jeweled rings designed by the internationally renowned jeweler, Aaron Basha, worth in excess of $2 million. To promote the book, they had a contest to give away one Aaron Basha ring at Book Expo America; it's a beautiful, pink jeweled ring with an adorable, tiny ladybug. We had a great time working on the contest puzzles together as a family over breakfast Saturday morning, and turned in our answer at the booth. The drawing was held on Sunday, and we actually won! So, subject to verification, we'll be getting a beautiful, unique ring (on which, unfortunately, we'll have to pay taxes).

I'll post more details about the books we saw over the next couple of days. And, of course, as we work our way through the pile, I'll be posting reviews as well.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Book Expo America

Today is the start of Book Expo America, or BEA, the largest annual book industry trade show in the United States. It's a great place to be if you are a book person. There's excitement in the air as publishers buzz their upcoming releases and authors autograph their newest books. The Washington DC Convention Center is packed wall to wall with anyone who has anything to do with books: publishers, authors, printers, book reviewers, TV media, agents, and more. This isn't open to the public; you have to be in the book industry to attend. I'll be attending in two capacities: as a publisher and as a book reviewer. I'll be posting here later about my BEA experiences, the books, and the news from the book world.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Mystery at Blackbeard's Cove

Mystery at Blackbeard's Cove, by Audrey Penn, is a fun adventure set in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Theodora McNemmish is the matriarch of Okracoke island, and a relative of Blackbeard the pirate. When she dies, she leaves four local children a mystery which may lead to a treasure, and a secret task: to bury her at sea so she can join Blackbeard's ship as a ghost. After they accomplish the task, the four children try to decipher the mystery, only to find themselves locked in a dark tunnel by an evil descendent of Israel Hands, Blackbeard's second in command. The four children must work together to try to escape the tunnel before it's too late.

Mystery at Blackbeard's Cove is an exciting story that will appeal to kids who like creepy stories, dark tunnels, and skeletons. The characters are not very well developed, and I had trouble distinguishing between the two older boys, but the adventure more than makes up for these deficiencies. The story alternates between the children and other characters, including the slimy Zeek Beacon and the ghost of Mrs. McNemmish, but it is at its best when it follows the children. The section of the book where they try to bury Mrs. McNemmish at sea is outrageously funny, in a morbid way, as everything that could possibly go wrong, does. The book reveals a wealth of historical information, about the pirate Blackbeard, the Underground Railroad, and the local history of the Outer Banks.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Sir Thursday

I just adore The Keys to the Kingdom series! Garth Nix is incredibly imaginative, and the books just keep getting more exciting. It would be too easy in a series like this to fall into a routine, where each book follows basically the same pattern. But Garth Nix is far too brilliant to fall into that trap; each book is unique and advances the story in a meaningful way. Sir Thursday is no exception; it may just be the best in the series so far.

In Sir Thursday, Arthur finds himself drafted into the Glorious Army of the Architect, under the command of Sir Thursday. Is this a random event or an intentional move by Sir Thursday and the other morrow days? Whatever the reason, Arthur finds he has no choice but to report for training as a new recruit, just as an invasion of Nithlings is gaining a foothold in the Great Maze. Arthur can't even use magic - he's in danger of becoming a denizen and losing his humanity if he uses too much magic. Meanwhile, back on Earth, Leaf confronts a dangerous near-denizen, known as the Skinless Boy, who has taken Arthur's place and begun to take control of the people around him, including Arthur's parents!

I've particularly enjoyed watching Arthur grow as a character throughout the series. He's begun to stand on his own two feet and take responsibility for himself and for those who depend on him. No longer does he docilely depend on the Will, following its instructions. In Sir Thursday, he begins to take charge and do what he believes is right, even if it means going against the Will.

The story itself is suspenseful and exciting, and we learn a little bit more about the players in this "game," and the mystery behind it. The book ends with a cliffhanger that will leave you screaming - literally. My son and I were listening to the audio in the car, and it ended just after we pulled up to the house. We looked at each other and yelled simultaneously!