Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sunday Brunch, a Little Heavy with Memories

Today’s Sunday Brunch will be brief. As I prepare to move, I’m so exhausted from packing and hauling boxes that every time I sit down at the computer I start to doze off. I wish I could blog with my eyes closed, but tha’ts pobabllly not a goodd iddea.


This week the Mystery Writers of America announced the winners of the 2010 Edgar Awards.

CLOSED FOR THE SEASON by Mary Downing Hahn won Best Juvenile Mystery.

The other finalists were:

THE CASE OF THE CASE OF MISTAKEN IDENTITY [no, I’m not still typing with my eyes closed; that really is the title] by Mac Barnett

The Edgar for Best Young Adult Mystery went to Peter Abrahams for REALITY CHECK.

The other finalists were:

IF THE WITNESS LIED by Caroline D. Cooney
SHADOWED SUMMER by Saundra Mitchell


Also announced this week were the Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards, which honor titles “that effectively promote the cause of peace, social justice, world community, and the equality of the sexes and all races as well as meeting conventional standards for excellence.”

The Jane Addams Award in the category of Books for Younger Children went to NASREEN’S SECRET SCHOOL : A TRUE STORY FROM AFGHANISTAN by Jeannette Winter.

Honor Books were:

SOJOURNER TRUTH’S STEP-STOMP STRIDE by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney
YOU AND ME AND HOME SWEET HOME by George Ella Lyon and Stephanie Anderson.

The Addams winner in the category of Books for Older Children went to MARCHING FOR FREEDOM by Elizabeth Partridge.

There were two Honor Books:



Book Expo is coming to New York late in May and I just read a schedule of events in Publishers Weekly.

This one caught my eye:

CHILDREN’S BOOK AND AUTHOR BREAKFAST: Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York and author of HELPING HANDS BOOKS : EMILY’S FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL (Sterling Children’s Books) will host Cory Doctorow, FOR THE WIN (Tor Books/Tor Teen), Mitali Perkins (BAMBOO PEOPLE (Charlesbridge); and Richard Peck, THREE QUARTERS DEAD (PENGUIN/DIAL BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS) at 8:00 a.m.

Okay, I’m sure it was quite a coup to get Sarah Ferguson to host this event, but it kind of makes me laugh too. Having an “author” like Fergie play host to Cory Doctorow, Mitali Perkins, and Richard Peck is a little like having “actress” Pamela Anderson host an event for Meryl Streep, Robert DeNiro and Daniel Day-Lewis....

Anyway, this is the first I’d heard of a new book by Richard Peck, so I immediately rushed over to and looked it up:

When I started off today’s blog talking about the Edgar Awards, I thought, “It’s nice to see mystery books for young readers get rewarded, but I really don’t think they hold much prestige for readers.” So I was a little stunned, considering all his other honors (including a Newbery!) to see Mr. Peck billed as an “Edgar winner” on the cover of this new book. I guess mentioning an Edgar DOES draw readers to books.

Considering the title and the cover illustration, I’m wondering if Mr. Peck has joined the vampire/undead trend of today’s YA fiction. I’ll be surprised, as this is an author who usually bucks current trends rather than jumping on board.


Many years ago...maybe around 1980 or so...I special-ordered a book about writing from a chain bookstore. I can’t even remember the title now. I just remember that when the book arrived, the dustjacket was really crumpled at the top of the spine.

When the clerk handed me the book, I kind of pulled back and frowned, not really wanting to buy a damaged book. The clerk immediately said, “Oh, don’t worry about that. Just write the publisher and they’ll send you a new dustjacket.”

I said, “They will?”

“Sure, they do it all the time.”

Frankly, I’d never heard of such a thing...but I went home and typed a letter to the publisher telling them I’d purchased the book with a damaged cover and asking if they could send a replacement.

A couple weeks later I received a round mailing tube from the postal carrier, opened it up, and a brand new copy of the dustjacket was rolled up inside!

Somehow I don’t think that would happen today.

If I sent such a letter to a publisher today, I don’t think they’d pull out a round mailing tube...I suspect they’d instead toss my note into the “round file” sitting on the floor next to their desk.

But it was a different, more innocent world then.

I was thinking about that experience this weekend when I purchased the new Deborah Wiles book, COUNTDOWN, a title which has been getting a lot of positive attention and will likely be one of this year’s award contenders. I found a whole stack of COUNTDOWNS under the front table at my favorite bookstore; it had just arrived and had not yet been shelved. Having had past experience trying to pluck a book from one of this store’s famously precarious stacks (AVALANCHE!) I instead asked one of the employees if she could grab a copy for me. She kindly did so, rang up the book, and it wasn’t until I was home that I took the book out of the bag and saw that the top spine edge of the dustjacket was bent and slightly split.


Now I have to add that I’m not usually super-fussy about the condition of my books -- especially if they suffer slight accidental damage when I’m reading them. That kind of thing shows the books have been used and read. And they keep memories alive; I actually have a book here (well, it’s packed away in a box at the moment) that contains a yellow splotch on two or three pages. It looks ugly, but every time I pick up that volume I remember sitting at the dining room table all by myself in the fall eating a hot dog with mustard and dripping it on the book.

But somehow I hate to get a book when it’s already damaged -- especially one that appears to be a special title that could end up on my “award book shelf” someday.

...Guess I’ll take my copy of COUNTDOWN back to the bookstore next week and see if they’ll let me exchange it for a pristine copy.


I got a nice note from blog-reader Alison this past week, in which she voiced her excitement over stumbling across a copy of the new Neil Gaiman/Charles Vess book, INSTRUCTIONS, at the bookstore:

I found it yesterday by happy accident while browsing at my local B&N store. I knew it was in the process & nearly done but didn't realize the release date was near. I was so THRILLED to be holding the beautiful little book in my hands & stood looking around the store for someone to share my joy...and started wondering...why wasn't there a HUGE display? Fanfare? Trumpets?

I know the feeling, Alison. Happens to me all the time.

I’ve been trying to think if there was one such incident that stands out for me more than any other. That’s when I remembered something that happened in the summer of 1983. Nowadays, children’s books are published all year ‘round. A month doesn’t pass without some great new title being released. But back in the 1980s, most children’s books were still being published as “spring” or “fall books.” If you look through the ads in children’s books magazines from that era, you’ll notice that most spring titles were released in March and April, while most fall titles were released in September and October.

That’s why I was so surprised when I happened upon not one, not two, but THREE much-anticipated fall titles in the bookstore in August 1983, a full month or two before they were supposed to hit the shelves.

I still remember the day of the week (Friday), the temperature (humid) and the even the color of the sky (filled with dark clouds) when I wandered into a small local bookstore and found DEAR MR. HENSHAW by Beverly Cleary, A SOLITARY BLUE by Cynthia Voigt, and THE SIGN OF THE BEAVER by Elizabeth George Speare all sitting on the shelf.

Talk about major books! DEAR MR. HENSHAW was a book unlike anything Beverly Cleary had written before; A SOLITARY BLUE continued the story begun in Voigt’s HOMECOMING and DICEY’S SONG...and SIGN OF THE BEAVER was the first children’s novel Elizabeth George Speare had written in over twenty years.

Like Alison, I also thought: “Where’s the fanfare? Where’s the trumpets?”

Thank goodness I happened to have enough money in my wallet to buy all three. I rushed home in the driving rain and immediately began reading those special books.

And I wasn’t the only one who found those books special. Five months later DEAR MR. HENSHAW won the Newbery and both SOLITARY BLUE and SIGN OF THE BEAVER were named Honor Books.

What was your most exciting and unexpected bookstore moment?


Don’t you love to look at other people’s bookshelves?

I do.

Right now about half my books are packed away in boxes at my new house. The other half are still here, crammed onto shelves and waiting to be packed.

As I pack them away, I thought I’d just grab a random handful of books from one shelf and share them. These titles were all sitting together because they are the same general size. Although very different in content, they represent the range of my collection.

Think of it as taking a peek at my (virtual) bookshelf:

First there’s CRUSADER by Edward Bloor, one of my all-time favorite young adult novels.

Next comes COUNTRY OF BROKEN STONE by Nancy Bond, a beautifully written YA novel. It’s been too long since we’ve had a new Nancy Bond book...I hope there’s another on the horizon.

THIS DAME FOR HIRE is an adult mystery by Sandra Scoppettone. I love this 1940s detective story and wish she’d continued the series beyond the second book, TOO DARN HOT.

SECRETS OF THE NIGHT SKY by Bob Berman is nonfiction book that explores the mysteries of space one can see with the naked eye. I bought this book more than fifteen years ago and still haven’t read it, though I continue to have a great interest in the stars and space. Maybe I’ll read it this summer. (I’ve been saying that since 1995.)

TROY by Adele Geras is a novel based on mythology. I’ve never been big on reading myths, but this book won me over!

WRITERS OF MULTICULTURAL FICTION FOR YOUNG ADULTS is special to me because I wrote a piece for the book. A few years ago it used to be relatively easy to find writing jobs on the internet. Editors of reference books would frequently advertise for writers on children’s book listserves and I got a lot of work that way. Unfortunately, that work has dried up in recent years and now I’m writing a blog for free!

PLAY PARADE is a collection of Noel Coward plays, including PRIVATE LIVES and DESIGN FOR LIVING. It’s the only book shown here that I didn’t purchase for myself, but was given to me.


One of the themes of this blog is that every book has several stories: the story you read inside the book, the story of how the book came to be written by the author, and the story of what the book means to you, the reader.

PLAY PARADE is one of the books I keep on my shelves because of that latter category. When I see this book, it reminds me of my childhood and people I used to know.

Growing up I was friends with a girl who lived across the street. When I was about seven or eight Jody invited me to go to a concert with her, her parents, and her grandparents.

The funny thing is that I have almost no memory of the concert. I think it was held outside in a park and I seem to remember the orchestra played a selection of songs from THE SOUND OF MUSIC. What I remember most was sitting in the backseat of her grandfather’s car. Her grandfather had had a stroke and couldn’t use his feet for braking or accelerating -- so the car had been rigged with special hand controls, which now strikes me as unusual and pretty modern for the mid-1960s. It was special to go out on a school night and we rode with the windows open and could smell the blossoms from the trees, which were in full bloom.

Then on the way home from the concert, we stopped at the Dairy Queen and Jody’s grandfather gave us each quarter to get an ice cream. While standing in line, Jody and I decided we’d each get a ten-cent cone (can you imagine anything costing ten cents these days?) and then we’d each have fifteen cents leftover which we could use to buy candy at the corner store the next day after school.

When I got home, I told my folks about the concert and the car with the hand controls and stopping at the Dairy Queen and ending up with fifteen extra cents to keep.

My mother was horrified by that.

Not just horrified, but HORRIFIED!

“If Jody’s grandfather gave you a quarter to buy an ice cream cone, you should have given him the change back. You had no right to keep that money. That is the same as stealing!”

“Jody did it too!”

“Jody is his granddaughter. You are not related to him. You have to give that money back!”

The next day she made me "march right across that street" and give the fifteen cents to Jody’s parents so they could return the money to the grandfather.

Of course Jody’s parents just laughed and said to keep the change. But my mother never forgot that incident and brought it up often during my childhood as an example of my “lack of common sense” and overall bad behavior.

Many years later, Jody’s grandfather died. I remember Jody’s mother telling me that, after the funeral here in Detroit, they took the urn containing his ashes down to Ohio for burial.

“You carried it in the car with you?” I said, grossed-out to think of someone holding the urn in their lap as they drove down the Ohio Turnpike.

“Yes, it was really a wonderful trip,” said Jody’s mother. “The entire way there we laughed and talked and told stories about Grandpa.”

I shuddered.

Well, I was only a teenager then. I’m much less squeamish about things like death and urns full o'ashes these days. I’ve now lived too long and have heard too many stories. I even know someone who kept her former mother-in-law’s ashes in a box under her bed for twenty years. (How’s that for a opening line of a horror story: “For twenty years, Sandra slept with the ashes of her ex-mother-in-law under her bed.”)

A couple months after Jody’s grandfather died, her family -- knowing I was a collector -- gave me a couple of his old books. Here’s the bookplate in PLAY PARADE:

Every time I see the book on my shelf, I remember him and his hand-controlled car, the excitement of going out on a school night, and keeping fifteen cents I should not have kept. I also think about Grandpa’s last car ride, with his family sharing memories of him as they drove from Michigan to Ohio. Actually, that kind of sounds like a nice trip. What better way to end things than surrounded by loved ones sharing stories?

PLAY PARADE serves to remind me that not all stories are found in books.

Thanks for visiting Collecting Children’s Books. Hope you’ll return.


Charlotte said...

I want more Nancy Bond too! I wonder why she isn't writing more...I hope she's ok!

CLM said...

The first time I saw a book in a bookstore that I wanted and made the purchase all by myself (fifty cents, as I recall) was the most special although I have had great finds since. It was a nice little bookstore outside Boston called Books & Pages. The book was a Berkley paperback with plaid design by Rosamund DuJardin called The Real Thing. I still have it! I still enjoy finding those old Berkley plaid paperbacks.

Daughter Number Three said...

My most recent bookstore moment was in Edinburgh, Scotland, at the end of the Royal Mile near Mary Queen of Scot's palace. There's a used bookstore near the gate, and in it I found half a dozen pristine Rosemary Sutcliff titles that would never be available in the U.S. (I supposed I could have ordered them over the Internet, but where's the fun in that?)

I carried them around the rest of the day, on the train back to where we were staying, and all the way home in my luggage. And every time I think of them or see them, I'm happy I did.

(P.S. I liked The Real Thing, too!)

Anthony said...

Re Daughter Number Three
Came across the comment over a much less interesting brunch ...

Anonymous said...

My best bookstore moment happened in 2002, Newbery Award day. I was searching for the winner, realizing it was a longshot I would find a copy of this unknown book. I went to my local B&N and quickly walk-ran to the shelf, scanning the authors. I couldn't believe it! One copy! I snatched it up and looked around, thinking that a mob must surely be chasing me to steal this precious book...A Single Shard. First Edition. Yes!