Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Big Crunchy Sunday Brunch

Today's Sunday brunch focuses on Pete Hautman, Dick Clark, Little Golden Books, and other random children's book info.


THE BIG REVEAL

This was my second and (sad sigh) last year serving as a judge for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the category of Young Adult Literature. It was a blast. A couple months ago, fellow judges Cindy Dobrez, Angelina Benedetti, and I spent a spirited Saturday morning narrowing a long list of possible finalists down to five books: BEAUTY QUEENS by Libba Bray; THE BIG CRUNCH by Pete Hautman; A MONSTER CALLS by Patrick Ness; LIFE : AN EXPLODED DIAGRAM by Mal Peet, and THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater.

This past Friday night, at a star-studded ceremony in California, author Cornelia Funke announced the winning title:

THE BIG CRUNCH by Pete Hautman.

Here is how we described the book in our recommendation:

"An ordinary boy meets an ordinary girl in a novel that is anything but ordinary. Wes and June’s relationship mirrors the magnetic pull of an unfolding universe. Against a backdrop of the four seasons a series of brief, often understated, vignettes alternate between the perspectives of each teenager, highlighting their sometimes shared, sometimes differing, perspectives on young love: the physicality, the confusion, the euphoria, and even the occasional moments of disconnect. It’s rare to discover a love story this elemental in its telling, this balanced in its point of view, and this honest in emotion. Pete Hautman’s The Big Crunch redefines and re-energizes the “teen romance” genre for twenty-first century readers."

Big Congrats to THE BIG CRUNCH and its four extremely worthy fellow nominees!


TEN THINGS YOU MAY OR MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT PETE HAUTMAN

To honor Mr. Hautman's big win, I've compiled a list of ten things you may or may not know about him:

1. SCHOOL DAYS : Pete Hautman attended the same Minnesota grade school as comedian/writer/senator Al Franken and filmdom's Ethan and Joel Cohen.

2. HE WRITES FICTION FOR ADULTS : Hautman entered the field of fiction with several books for adults, including DRAWING DEAD (1993), SHORT MONEY (1995), and THE MORTAL NUTS (1996) and has continued to publish adult novels such as RING GAME, MRS. MILLION, RAG MAN, DOOHICKEY and THE PROP during his career as a young adult author.

3. HE HAS A PSEUDONYM : Under the name "Peter Murray," he has published nearly 100 nonfiction books for children, on topics ranging from dinosaurs and kangaroos to juggling, paper airplanes, and chocolate chip cookies.


4. IT SOMETIMES TAKES HIM A LONG TIME TO WRITE A BOOK : According to his website, the author wrote INVISIBLE in just six weeks, but many books take longer because "I often get stuck when I'm writing. Rather than brood about it, I'll set a book aside for weeks, months, or years and work on something else. I usually have several projects underway." And some books take an entire lifetime to write. For example, GODLESS originated with a conversation Hautman had with some friends as a teenager; decades later he wrote the book and won the National Book Award for it. Of his latest work, "The Klaatu Diskos," Hautman says, "I've been thinking of this trilogy my whole life."

5. SWEETBLOOD AND THE SPOOKY COINCIDENCE : Hautman's vampire novel SWEETBLOOD took twenty-five years to write. He conceived the story in 1978, long before today's vampire craze began, developing the offbeat premise that vampire legends from the middle ages could simply have been cases of undiagnosed diabetes. The book would not be published until 2003. In the interim, Pete Hautman himself had been diagnosed with Type I diabetes.

6. HE'S GOT A CO-AUTHOR : Hautman shares his life with writer Mary Logue, who write poetry, adult mysteries, and children's books (DANCING WITH AN ALIEN.) Together, they've teamed up to write a series of mystery novels for kids including SNATCHED (2006), SKULLDUGGERY (2007), and DOPPELGANGER (2008.) They also started writing Hautman's new book, WHAT BOYS REALLY WANT, together but abandoned the project when Pete became (his word) "pushy." He later finished the book alone, but credits Mary with some of the best lines in the first four chapters of the published book.

7. HE'S A BIBLIOGRAPHER'S WORST NIGHTMARE : Writing across genres, writing solo and with a partner, using a pseudonym...we can deal with that. But having the same book published under three different titles will confuse the best of us:




8. DUSTJACKET DISASTER : Then, to confuse us even more, his publishers made a major goof with the dustjacket of THE BIG CRUNCH. If you've read the book, you know the female protagonist's first name is JUNE. Unfortunately, the dustjacket flap consistently refers to her as
9. HE'S MAKES FILMS : Pete Hautman has also been known to make "trailers" to promote his books on Youtube. Here is the one he made for THE BIG CRUNCH.

10. HE'S GOT TWO BOOKS COMING OUT THIS SPRING : It's pretty rare for an author to have two books released in the same publishing season, but Pete Hautman has accomplished that this spring. His romantic comedy WHAT BOYS REALLY WANT was published a few months back by Scholastic and Candlewick just released THE OBSIDIAN BLADE, the first volume in the "Klaatu Diskos" trilogy. And we've got reviews of both book below!


TWO NEW NOVELS BY PETE HAUTMAN

One of the most engaging aspects of THE BIG CRUNCH is its exceptionally evenhanded exploration of boy/girl relationships. That balanced view of love and romance is also on display in WHAT BOYS REALLY WANT, a novel told in the alternating voices of high schooler Lita
and her best friend Adam. Lita is a wannabe writer who is working on a novel and writes an anonymous blog about relationships, but it's not-reading, business-minded Adam who actually sits down and writes WHAT BOYS WANT, a book that tells "the truth about what real boys are thinking, saying, and doing when it comes to sex, love, and romance!" Though neither shallow, oblivious Adam or snarky busybody Lita are particularly likable characters, their humorous dialogue is often laugh-out-loud funny. While the text could have been tightened by a third, the breezy story will likely have both male and female readers nodding in recognition at Adam and Lita's insights into what boys and girls really want from each other when it comes to romance and love.

THE OBSIDIAN BLADE is the first volume in a new science fiction/fantasy series titled "The Klaatu Diskos." An enigmatic opening relates how a "discorporal Klaatu artist" from far in the future created a series of portals that opened into important historical locations.
The story then moves into the present as thirteen-year-old Tucker's father, fixing a loose shingle on the roof, tumbles through one of those portals -- or diskos -- and returns some time later with a little girl ("She is from...Bulgaria"...yeah, like the Coneheads were from France!) and a complete loss of religous faith -- particularly troubling since Tucker's dad is a minister. In the months to come, Tucker's mother has a breakdown and then both his parents disappear, leaving the teenager in the care of a hip uncle he's never before met. Soon Tucker himself is traveling through the mirage-like diskos floating in the air -- finding himself atop the World Trade Center on 9/11 and viewing the crucifixion of Jesus. Though filled with stunning moments, the novel becomes increasingly abstruse as it continues. By the final chapters -- in which Tucker has mysteriously aged, his mother has returned home years younger, married to another man, and not recognizing her son, and Dad is now an aged, evil religious leader -- many readers may be as confused as I am. I'm not sure what to make of the "Klaatu Diskos" at this point, but will trust that Hautman knows what he's doing and that the disjointed and confusing plotlines will seamlessly converge and make total sense in future volumes.


A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS

I've often said that my book collection, not to mention this book-collecting blog, would be pretty dull if I didn't get a lot of help from friends.

That was proven again this week, when two east coast friends went out of their way on my behalf.

First, my New York friend, who planned to attend the annual Newbery/Caldecott event at Books of Wonder, volunteered to take my first editions and Advance Readings Copies of winner DEAD END IN NORVELT and Honor Book BREAKING STALIN'S NOSE to the store to have them signed by Jack Gantos:



and Eugene Yelchin:



Meanwhile, my Connecticut friend recently told me expect a package in the mail. It didn't arrive and, instead, took a little trip back and forth across the country, until it finally arrived in my mailbox this week.

It was an ARC of one of this season's most talked-about children's books:

personally inscribed with a meaningful statement by author Barbara Wright:

That particular friend is currently out of the country on vacation, so I have not written her personally to thank her for the wonderful surprise. Maybe she'll see it here first. In fact, maybe both of my friends will see this posting and know how grateful I am. Thank you, guys!


"I GIVE IT A 90 FOR THE PICTURES, BUT ONLY A 50 FOR THE WRITING"

Dick Clark died this week at age 82. It's a sign of his longevity in the entertainment business that every generation remembers him a different way.

Today's young people probably know him best from "New Year's Rockin' Eve" and the American Music Awards.

People of my generation knew him from hosting game shows. On our first trip to New York, in 1979, my brother and I watched a taping of THE $20,000 PYRAMID hosted by Dick and starring Joanne Worley and, of all people, David Letterman. (Children's book connection: THE $20,000 PYRAMID also plays a role in the Newbery-winning WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead, a novel set in 1979!)

And of course people from an earlier generation new Dick Clark best from AMERICAN BANDSTAND, the show which earned him the title "America's Oldest Teenager."

Did you know that Dick Clark also wrote a few books for teenagers?

There was YOUR HAPPIEST YEARS, which was published both in hardcover:

and in paperback:

Then there was TO GOOF OR NOT TO GOOF, also in hardcover:

and paperback:

He also wrote a few books for adults. I am somewhat skeptical whenever an entertainment personality is credited with writing a book. I know there are times when the famous individual really does write the volume, but there are other times when their only contribution is allowing their name to appear on the front cover. I don't know which was the case with the above YA books by Mr. Clark, but I assume this oddity -- apparently passed out as a bowling lane freebie -- is an example of just lending his name and image to a publishing package:

I think the following novel may be my favorite memorial to Dick Clark. Published in 1959, TV BANDSTAND is the story of a teenage girl who gets a make-over and joins the cast of "TV Bandstand, the popular, daily record hop at the television station." According to the dustjacket, "Here's a story as fast and irrepressible as rock 'n' roll itself. All teen-agers, especially those who enjoy 'American Bandstand,' will acclaim it true to life and one of the most exciting books they've read."

Published when the author was only twenty-eight, TV BANDSTAND has been long out of print, but it's apparently quite well-remembered by former teens. It's in demand among book collectors and, the few times a copy turns up, it often sells for between $100 and $200.


CHILD CHOOSERS

There are just a few more days for kids to vote for their favorites in the fifth annual Children's Choice Book Awards.

According to a recent article in School Library Journal, over half a million kids participated last year and this year's goal is one million.

This year's finalists -- selected by the Children's Book Council -- are:


Kindergarten to Second Grade Book of the Year

BAILEY by Harry Bliss
DOT by Patricia Intriago
PIRATES DON'T TAKE BATHS by John Segal
THREE HENS AND A PEACOCK by Lester L. Laminack, illustrated by Henry Cole
ZOMBIE IN LOVE by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Scott Campbell

Third Grade to Fourth Grade Book of the Year

BAD KITTY MEETS THE BABY by Nick Bruel
A FUNERAL IN THE BATHROOM AND OTHER SCHOOL BATHROOM POEMS by Kalli Dakos, illustrated by Mark Beech
THE MONSTROUS BOOK OF MONSTERS by Libby Hamilton, illustrated by Jonny Duddle and Aleksei Bitskoff
SIDEKICK by Dan Santat
SQUISH #1, SUPER AMOEBA by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

Fifth Grade to Sixth Grade Book of the Year

BAD ISLAND by Doug Ten Napel
HOW TO SURVIVE ANYTHING by Rachel Buchholz,illustrated by Chris Philpot
LOST & FOUND by Shaun Tan
OKAY FOR NOW by Gary D. Schmidt
RACING IN THE RAIN : MY LIFE AS A DOG by Garth Stein

Teen Book of the Year

CLOCKWORK PRINCE by Cassandra Clare
DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE by Laini Taylor
DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth
PASSION by Lauren Kate
PERFECT by Ellen Hopkins

Author of the Year

Jeff Kinney for DIARY OF A WIMPY KID 6: CABIN FEVER
Christopher Paolini for INHERITANCE
James Patterson for MIDDLE SCHOOL : THE WORST YEARS OF MY LIFE
Rick Riordan for THE SON OF NEPTUNE
Rachel Renee Russell for DORK DIARIES 3 : TALES FROM A NOT-SO-TALENTED POP STAR

Illustrator of the Year

Felicia Bond for IF YOU GIVE A DOG A DOUGHNUT
Eric Carle for THE ARTIST WHO PAINTED A BLUE HORSE
Anna Dewdney for LLAMA LLAMA HOME WITH MAMA
Victoria Kann for SILVERLICIOUS
Brian Selznick for WONDERSTRUCK

Kids (and, hey, no cheating!) can cast their votes here!


THOSE BOOKS WITH THE GOLDEN SPINE

I imagine that it's now been beaten out by boy wizards and teenage vampires but, as recently as 2001, THE POKY LITTLE PUPPY headed Publishers Weekly's list of "All-time Bestselling Children's Book."

This modest little volume by Janette Sebring Lowrey was one of the first twelve volumes published by Little Golden Books in 1942.

Today, Janette Sebring Lowrey remains virtually forgotten (to see how Ursula Nordstrom tried to nurture her talent over decades, get a hold of DEAR GENIUS, edited by Leonarad Marcus) but Golden Books are still going strong.

Here's an interesting article about the Little Golden Books that just appeared on ABEbooks site. Just seeing the pictures of those old book covers brought back a flood of memories, plus I enjoyed the comments from readers recalling their own favorite Little Golden Books from the past.

If you have an interest in Little Golden Books, the best place to start is with GOLDEN LEGACY, a history by Leonard Marcus:

You might also be interested in this bibliography of all the Little Golden Books published between 1942 and 1985, compiled by Delores B. Jones:

And book collectors will appreciate these identification and price guides by Steve Santi:


Though once criticized as cheap, commmercial "supermarket" books, the Little Golden Books frequently feature prose and art from creators who would later become famous in the world of children's books. And no one can deny the impact these books have had on the childhoods of millions.


WHICH ANDRE NORTON BOOK SHOULD I READ?

Considering her huge output of children's and young adult books, it's somewhat surprising that I only have one book by Andre Norton on my library shelves. It's a paperback copy of her 1947 book ROGUE REYNARD, which was re-issued as a sixty-five cent Dell Yearling paperback in 1972.


I probably never would have bought it, except I was collecting Yearling Books at that time. However, I ended up loving it -- which is why I still own this volume while most of my other Yearling books have been lost, given away, or upgraded-to-hardcover over the past forty years.

Strangely, my love of this book did not make me an Andre Norton fan. The public library had dozens of her science fiction novels, and every now and then I'd check one out...but never made it past the first chapter or two. Science fiction just wasn't my thing, and I could never get past all those impossible-to-pronounce names of characters and planets. Later in life I did read and enjoy a couple of Ms. Norton's fantasies such as LAVENDER-GREEN MAGIC (I'm not a big fantasy reader either, but those stories were grounded enough in the "real world" to keep me interested) and at least one of her science fiction epics, THE JARGOON PARD (see what I mean about funny names? What's a "jargoon"? What's a "pard"???)

However, I've recently decided that -- as someone who writes about historical children's books -- I really do need to read at least a couple of Andre Norton's science fiction novels, just so I can have some perspective on the matter.

I asked one Norton fan what book would be a good starting place -- a readable title that will keep me interested and isn't overwhelmed with characters named Pker and Hslan living on the planet Xtrobilia.

This fan recommended Norton's SOLAR QUEEN.

Unfortunately, our copy is checked out of the library at present. While I wait for its return, can anyone recommend other favorite Andre Norton titles that might turn me into a fan?


BACK TO THE LA TIMES...

This weekends LA Times Book Prize Awards were presented as part of the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, a weekend celebration full of speeches, discussions, events, booksignings and other fun. I particularly liked this huge banner that public was invited to sign:

Wouldn't it be great if every city had one of these hanging for the public to sign. What a great way to advertise books and show that reading is fun!


THANKS

Thanks for visiting Collecting Children's Books. Hope you'll be back!



8 comments:

doula_char said...

I'd start with the Star Ka'at series.
http://www.amazon.com/Star-Kaat-Andre-Norton/dp/0802762506

This was one of the first science fiction stories I ever read- hooked me for life.

It's very character driven, and about kids and their pet cats.

Linda said...

I second STAR KA'AT, at least the original. I haven't read the rest. Hope these newer editions come with the original illustrations, which persuaded me to buy the book.

Anamaria (bookstogether) said...

I don't remember liking Andre Norton's Outside, but I owned it, which meant I read it multiple times and still remember the creepy Rhyming Man. It's about a community living in a sealed dome city (where, Kirkus Reviews reminds me, the life support machinery is running down...).

Bybee said...

John Steinbeck mentioned Dick Clark in Winter of Our Discontent. That was strange. There was also a helpful end note by the Penguin editors explaining who Dick Clark is/was.

Kim Laird said...

I would read Star Man's Son. It is an adventure novel, set in the post-Apocalypse world. Really fascinating novel, and since you like novels more grounded in reality, this one is more grounded (I think).

Genevieve said...

Octagon Magic. Set on Earth so there are no unusual names, time travel so there's a good amount of history. I loved it as a kid, haven't read it since then so I don't know how it holds up.

Genevieve said...

Octagon Magic -- set on Earth, with time-travel on Earth, so no odd names. Grounded very much in reality -- girl moves to U.S. from Canada, unhappy and homesick, teased at school, finds Octagon House and the elderly ladies who live there, and travels to house in the past during the pre-Civil War era. Loved this as a kid.

Zantippy Skiphop said...

I loved Golden Books when I was little and LOVED The Poky Little Puppy! My aunt gave me a toy dog that looks almost just like the one in the book and his name is Tiger:)

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