Friday, March 30, 2007

Things missed

I've been traveling this week, and I missed a few things of interest:

  • I'm probably the last person on Earth to see the new Harry Potter covers. Since I assume everyone has seen them, I won't repost them here. In case you haven't seen them, Bookshelves of Doom has a nice lineup of the three covers side by side that makes it easy to compare the U.S. cover, the UK children's, and the UK adult. The only thing this doesn't show is the full wraparound cover for the U.S. edition, which shows (presumably) Voldemort on the back side. For that you can go to the Scholastic site, which even has a nifty little magnifying glass you can move around to zoom in on parts of the cover.

    I agree with Fuse #8 that the UK children's cover is just...strange. It just looks so cartoonish. I do like the UK adult cover very much, though.

  • There's been a fascinating discussion about the dearth of YA science fiction at Chasing Ray, here and also here. Colleen questions why there is so little science fiction for teens, why much of the current science fiction isn't labeled science fiction, and if it matters whether it's labeled science fiction or not.

    I agree that I'd love to see more YA SF. I grew up on Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, van Vogt, and many others; many of those classics seem dated now, but there hasn't been a new crop rising up to take their place. I wonder if it isn't just that young people today are living in a science fiction world, which makes science fiction seem mainstream. We have wonders today that I couldn't have imagined when I was a teen. On the other hand, we don't have space travel, which I thought would be commonplace by now, and there doesn't seem to be any huge drive towards moving out from Earth. It's as if as a society, our vision has moved inwards rather than outwards.

  • A new round of the Scholar's Blog book discussion group starts up next week. This time we'll be discussing A Hat Full of Sky, the second Tiffany Aching book. This is a wonderful series, full of wit and wisdom, so if you haven't read them, this is a perfect opportunity.

  • The Kidlitosphere's own Mitali Perkins has a great article in School Library Journal Curriculum Connections on creating a sense of place in books. The article makes the case that books with a strong sense of place, any place, have a lot of appeal for young people growing up between cultures who may feel displaced. But even beyond that, it has a lot of wonderful information of interest to both writers and readers on how sensory information can create a sense of place, and how place can illuminate plot, character, or theme. It's well worth checking out.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Non-Kidlit blogs I read

Hey, I've been tagged! MotherReader tagged me with the new (altered) meme started by Liz at A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy: name five non-kidlit blogs you read. Gulp! Will I sound like too much of a nerd if I say I'm not sure that I have five? I'm up to about 30 kidlit blogs that I read regularly, but not many others. So here's what I have:

  • My favorite non-kidlit blog is Sci-fi tech. It's a great and often humorous look at new and upcoming gadgets. My favorite posts are those written by Adam Frucci; I like his style.
  • The Small Press Blog has interesting news, interviews, and information about small press publishing and publishers.
  • I'm not sure if this counts as a blog, but as a Mac user, Apple Insider keeps me up to date on the Apple world.
  • Even though I'm not blogging to make money (if I were, I'd be failing miserably), I read ProBlogger. He posts on a variety of topics relating to blogging, and not all of them are about making money with your blog. I sometimes find good tips and information there.
  • Finally, like many of you, I assume, I read GalleyCat.

Whew! I just squeaked under the wire with five. Now I have to figure out who to tag, who hasn't already been tagged yet. The bloggers I know best are those that were on the Cybils F/SF nominating committee with me; Michele (Scholar's Blog) has already been tagged, but I think that Kim Baccellia, Gail Gauthier (Original Content), and Miss Erin are still fair game, so if you guys are interested in playing, consider yourselves tagged. I'm hoping that Miss Erin will post some interesting theater blogs!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Celebrate Spring with the 12th Carnival of Children's Literature

The 12th Carnival of Children's Literature is now up! Midwestern Lodestar has done a wonderful job, creating a beautiful carnival with ... a carnival theme! Don't go hungry or you might find yourself with a craving for fried dough!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Book Review: Sir Kyle and Lady Madeline

Sir Kyle and Lady Madeline

by Sallie Lowenstein

Kyle loves his new house. In his imagination, it's a castle, with turrets and secret passageways and wizards. He's not so sure about his new neighbor, though; Madeline seems like trouble. When she agrees to play knights with him, she clearly has a different game in mind than he does. In Kyle's game, the knight goes hunting dragons, but in Madeline's game, the princess gets to kiss the knight. So Kyle uses his imagination to deal with his pesky neighbor. But does Madeline's game have a different ending?

Sir Kyle and Lady Madeline is a delightful picture book that does a wonderful job of conveying the vivid imagination of children at play. The illustrations, done in colored pencil and opaque ink on rough paper, are beautiful, and go hand in hand with the text to convey the full story. As the dragon fades in and out of view, sometimes appearing to be almost part of the natural environment, and sometimes dominating the illustration, the reader gets a sense of the ebb and flow of imaginative play. One final illustration after the end of the text clues the reader that Kyle's ending isn't the only possible one.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Hurry! Get your carnival here!

Wow, somehow I missed that the next Carnival of Children's Literature is open for submissions, and I almost missed it completely! Midwestern Lodestar is hosting this month. The deadline for submissions is tomorrow, Saturday, St. Patrick's Day. Submissions have to be in by evening. So don't miss out! You can submit your favorite post at the carnival site or by emailing Midwestern at the email address listed in this post.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Edge of the Forest

There's a great new issue of The Edge of the Forest up; personally, I think it's one of the best yet. For the uninitiated, The Edge of the Forest is a monthly electronic journal about children's literature, edited by Kelly Herold, of Big A little a fame. The columnists and contributors include some of the brightest stars in the kidlitosphere.

Some of my favorite articles in this month's issue:

This is only a small sample of the great articles, reviews, and interviews in this month's issue. Check it out!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Scholar's Blog Discussion Group

This month, the Scholar's Blog book discussion group has been discussing The House In Norham Gardens by Penelope Lively. I had to sit this one out, because I didn't have time to read the book, but it's not too late to participate if you have any comments about this book.

Next month the book of choice is Terry Pratchett's A Hat Full of Sky. I'll definitely participate in this one, because not only have I read it, but I loved the series.

View the book discussion schedule through November here.

Book Review: The Coming of Dragons

The Coming of Dragons
The Darkest Age: Book One

by A.J. Lake

Two children, Elspeth and Edmund, are shipwrecked together with a mysterious chest. Elspeth is the daughter of the ship's captain, and Edmund is the son of the King of Sussex, traveling incognito. During the storm which wrecked the ship, Edmund saw a dragon; but more than that, he saw through the dragon's eyes.

The two children and the chest are found on the beach by on old man, Aagard, who turns out to be more than he seems. Aagard was one of the council of the King of Wessex, called the King's Rede, before the Rede was betrayed by an evil, power-hungry man called Orgrim. Orgrim was a ripente, someone who has the capability of entering anyone's mind and seeing through their eyes. Aagard tells Edmund that the reason he could see through the dragon's eyes is that he is a Ripente also.

The chest contains a crystal sword, a sword coveted by Orgrim. If Orgrim gets the sword, he will be unstoppable. The sword chooses Elspeth and bonds itself to her hand. Edmund and Elspeth just want to go home, but fate has another destiny in store for them. The two children may have no choice but to use their unwanted gifts to try to defeat Orgrim.

The Coming of Dragons is set in a land which closely resembles England of the Dark Ages, but in this England, things such as magic and dragons are real. The story is exciting; kids who like swords and sorcery adventures will enjoy it. I liked the strong-willed Elspeth a little better as a character than the cautious Edmund, but even Edmund develops some spirit as they go along and as he learns better how to use his gift. The protagonists act stupidly a little too often for my taste, but hopefully as the series progresses they'll grow into their responsibility.

In spite of the title, there's not much of dragons here; the one dragon appears only twice in the story. However, the next book, The Book of the Sword, promises to have more about the dragon. I'll find out soon: I have a copy of The Book of the Sword and will read it as soon as I can get it away from David.

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Coming of Age

Back in January, Colleen at Chasing Ray posted a call for nominations of coming of age novels. She has compiled all the nominations into a list, organized by categories: "Books Girls Will Identify With Strongly," "Books Boys Will Identify With Strongly," "Boys & Girls Will Relate Equally," "Books GLBT YAs Will Identify With Strongly," "Mysteries/Thrillers That Include Characters Coming-of-Age," "Classics (Published before 1970)," "Graphic Novels," "Adult Books With Coming-Of-Age Themes," and yes, of course there is a category for "Science Fiction & Fantasy." This is a great list to find books that will appeal to a wide variety of teens and preteens.

View the complete list of coming of age books here.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Mo Willems fans take note

I don't read many picture books anymore, so sadly I haven't had the opportunity to get to know the work of Mo Willems. But I know he has a legion of fans in the kidlitosphere, so I thought this would be of interest. Book Expo America (BEA) just announced the line-up for its children's book and author breakfast, to be held June 1 at the Javits Center in New York:

...this opening-day breakfast will feature Mo Willems, author of Knuffle Bunny too! A Case of Mistaken Identity (Hyperion Books for Children); Jacqueline Wilson, author of Candyfloss (Roaring Brook Press); and Daniel Pinkwater, author of The Neddiad (Houghton Mifflin Children’s Book Group). Libby Bray, author of The Sweet Far Thing (Delacorte Press) will be the Master of Ceremonies.

Click here for more information

Speaking of BEA, are any other bloggers going to be there? Any chance of a kid lit get together?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

New blog

In addition to this blog, my son David and I also manage a web site directory of fantasy and science fiction books. You can browse the directory by subject, author, or series, and many of the books have reviews and ratings by either David or I or both. There are also listings of new and forthcoming books.

The problem is that there is no easy way to subscribe to updates to the directory, so there's no way to know if new books or reviews have been added. I've found a way to fix that: I set up a new blog specifically for book news, and any updates to the site will be automatically posted to the Book News blog. I will continue to post my usual reviews and commentary to this blog, and the Book News blog will have short entries about newly released books, forthcoming books, and new reviews posted to the directory.

Go to the Wands and Worlds Book News blog

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Book Review: The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle

The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle

by Catherine Webb

When youthful thief Tess breaks into the house of Horatio Lyle, she gets more than she bargained for. Horatio is an inventor and scientist, and his house is full of gadgets, some of which are very effective at trapping would-be thieves. Horatio agrees not to turn Tess in to the police if she agrees to be his assistant for a week.

Horatio is also a special constable, and he's called into duty when a supposedly impenetrable vault at the Bank of England is broken into. Among the items taken was one of little value but "cultural significance": the Fuyun Plate. Lyle is commissioned by Lord Lincoln, personal aide to Queen Victoria, to recover it. Tess accompanies him to investigate the crime. The two are also accompanied by Thomas Elwick, whose father Lord Elwick was responsible for keeping the Fuyun Plate safe and whose vault was the one broken into.

As Lyle, Tess, and Thomas get deeper into the investigation, they discover that there is more to the mystery than they are being told. The Fuyun Plate is an object of power, and an ancient race known as the Tseiqin is trying to recover the plate for their own purposes. The Tseiqin are powerful beings, but their power is limited by iron. With the plate, their power will have no limits and they can rule the world and free it from the burgeoning industrial revolution, which they abhor. Lyle, Tess, and Thomas have only their wits, and Lyle's inventions, to stand against these powerful beings.

I first read Horatio Lyle for the Cybils, and I had to read it rather quickly because I had a lot of books to get through. This is such a rich and complex book that I didn't think a review based on a quick reading would do it justice, so I decided to read it again and take my time with it prior to reviewing it. Some books are just as good the second time around, and some aren't. A rare few books get better on a second reading; The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle is one such book.

It's a treat worth savoring, especially for anyone who loves words and language. The descriptions are rich and poetic, yet they don't interfere with the flow of an exciting and suspenseful story. Webb has a masterful command of the English language. She also writes with a wonderfully understated wit and sense of irony; the book is peppered with pithy social commentary.

The characters are fascinating and delightful, starting with Lyle himself. the obvious comparison is to Sherlock Holmes, and indeed, there are some obvious similarities here. Lyle shares Holmes deductive powers and interest in science, but his personality is more human, although he does have a touch of Holmes' arrogance about his own abilities. Tess and Thomas are much more interesting sidekicks than Watson; Tess in particular is quite likeable. Even the minor characters are well-drawn.

The many details of the setting give the reader an amazing sense of the Victorian era. I don't know enough about the Victorian era to know how accurate it is, but it certainly has verisimilitude. (I did some Googling and found out that Webb is a history student, so I suspect the historical details are accurate).

Given my glowing praise of the book, I just wanted to make a comment about why I didn't vote for it in the final vote for the Cybils shortlist. There were two overriding principles that we used in judging the Cybils nominees: literary merit and kid appeal. Were the books judged on literary merit alone, I would have voted for Horatio Lyle without hesitation. However, I worried that the complexity of language and plot would put off some teens. I think some teens will love that complexity, but others might find it too challenging. I opted to vote in the final vote for books that I thought had a wider kid (or teen) appeal. (I did vote for Horatio Lyle in an earlier vote).

The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle isn't published yet in the U.S., but you can buy it from

Friday, March 02, 2007

Happy Birthday Cat, and help literacy

You've probably already read that today is the 50th birthday of the Cat in the Hat. Happy birthday Cat! You can send a birthday card to the Cat in the Hat and help literacy; Random House will donate a book to First Reads for every card sent. To send a birthday card, go to If you're at work, you might want to turn off your speakers first, unless you want your co-workers to wonder why the happy birthday song is blaring out of your computer!

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