Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sunday Brunch for December 5

Among other topics, today’s Sunday Brunch anticipates this week’s Morris Award finalists, revisits adult mystery authors who also write for kids, and asks if you finish every book you begin.


I’m a big fan of Christmas movies. The holiday season wouldn’t be the same without old standards such as WHITE CHRISTMAS, HOLIDAY INN, and A CHRISTMAS STORY. And I’m usually glued to Lifetime TV for the entire month of December, watching their large assortment of Christmas flicks. Last night I watched a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie that I recorded earlier in the week -- NOVEMBER CHRISTMAS. It’s the story of a town that bands together to bring an early Christmas to a sick little girl. Yes, it was sentimental. But what made it especially interesting to me was that one of the characters worked in the children’s department of a library and another character, a troubled teenage girl, hoped to write and illustrate children’s books when she grew up. One scene even referenced two famous volumes, THE FIVE CHINESE BROTHERS and HAROLD AND THE PURPLE CRAYON.

It’s not often that children’s books get that much attention on TV. Thanks Hallmark!


There are often visual differences between the cover of an ARC (advance reading copy) and the final hardcover book. Sometimes the original illustration has been replaced; other times there are only minor changes in the artwork. Occasionally a title will even change. But this is one or the rare times I’ve noticed an author’s name changing between ARC and hardcover:

I have no idea why the ARC’s Margaret Peterson later became Margaret Stohl.

Change in marital status?

Did she decide to adopt or discard a pseudonym with this book?

All I know is that BEAUTIFUL CREATURES was one of 2009’s most popular YA titles -– and the series is still going strong with the recent publication of second volume BEAUTIFUL DARKNESS.

Though I don’t know the reason for the name change on the books, I suspect that the ARC is now worth a bit more money to collectors due to this variation in names.


Incidentally, it was just about this time last year that BEAUTIFUL CREATURES was shortlisted for the William C. Morris award.

Just three years old, the Morris award “honors a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens.”

Within the next couple days, the five finalists for the 2011 Morris Award will be announced. I love award shortlists. They allow us prize fans to “play along at home” by reading all the nominated books and evaluating them for ourselves, rather than waking up to out-of-left-field surprises on awards day.

Which titles will be on the Morris list this week? SHIP BREAKER by Paolo Bacigalupi? SPLIT by Swati Avasthi? BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver? THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson? MATCHED by Allie Condie? THE RED UMBRELLA by Christina Gonzalez? THE MOCKINGBIRDS by Daisy Whitney?

Those are some of the titles that spring to my mind, but the Morris Award has proven to be hard to predict. I would not be surprised to see a list of nominees that I’ve never heard of before.

Guess we’ll find out in a day or two!


If you also love award shortlists, here’s another one for you.

This past week brought the announcement of the five finalists for the 2011 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults.

The titles are:






The winner will be announced January 10 -- the same day we learn the winners of the Morris Award…and Newbery…and Printz…and Sibert….

I’m taking that day off work!


Nearly two years ago I wrote a blog about scary dolls from children’s books.

This week I encountered another one.

Someone at work brought me a slim black picture book that needed its call number changed. I opened the book to see this strange tableau:

The book was called GHOST DOLL, a 1983 volume written and illustrated by Bruce McMillan.

The story concerns a young girl named Chrissy who is beckoned inside an old house by a faint voice calling, "Come in. Come in. Come in and play with me."

Chrissy breaks into the house (okay, the book just says "She opened the front door and peered inside" but the next thing you know she's all over the place -- peeking under the sofa, climbing the stairs. Hasn't she, technically, committed a B&E?) while the voice taunts her: "I'm in here. I'm in here. Please come in here."

An abandoned doll, photographed to look hazy, is shown floating through the mansion. Chrissy pursues her and when the doll realizes that "You didn't run away. You wouldn't leave me. Now I'm sure! I want to be your doll" the ghost floats into a box, the box floats out the door, and Chrissy presumably keeps her. (Until, at least, Chrissy discovers boys, tosses the doll under her bed, and the ghost doll must scare up some other companion.)

I’m not sure what’s scary about the book -- the story or the stark black-and-white photographs of Chrissy and the doll. If the doll had been the least bit beguiling, I could understand Chrissy’s quest, but there’s something malevolent about this doll…especially the way she fades in and out of the pictures.

Also, there were a couple near-vulgar pictures of the doll swirling above a staircase that reminded me of a baby making its way down the birth canal. If babies were born already diapers that is.

I found GHOST DOLL so creepy that I couldn’t wait to check to see how many readers had submitted customer comments saying this book had traumatized them as children.

Strangely, there is not one single comment -- either pro or con -- for GHOST DOLL.
Does anyone remember this oddity?

Did it freak you out as a child?


Last Sunday I blogged about adult mystery authors who have also written for young readers.

First, I wanted to clear up the misconception that all of the books M.E. Kerr wrote under the pseudonym “Vin Packer” are out of print. Six of these super suspense novels have been brought back into print by Stark House Press , a company known for reprinting some of the best mystery novels from the past.

Also, three of the Vin Packer novels are now available on Kindle. You can read SPRING FIRE, the very first novel by the author of DINKY HOCKER SHOOTS SMACK! and GENTLEHANDS for only one dollar. And the Packer novels LOOK BACK TO LOVE and THE YOUNG AND THE VIOLENT are available on Kindle for less than $5 each.

Several people wrote in to mention other authors who have written both adult mysteries and kids’ books.

How could I have skipped over Sandra Scoppettone! She’s one of my all-time favorite young adult authors (TRYING HARD TO HEAR YOU; LONG TIME BETWEEN KISSES) and her adult mysteries (which include the Lauren Laurano series, the Faye Quick series, and three books written under the pseudonym Jack Early) contain the same type of colorful, likable characters and amazing dialogue that make her books for young readers so good.

Sam wrote to say, “I've always been amazed that the two most famous talking bear authors also wrote adult mysteries. I've never read A.A. Milne's mystery, but I've read some of Michael Bond's. I eventually had to stop because I was blushing too hard to continue!”

Milne’s “murder-in-a-locked-room” novel, THE RED HOUSE MYSTERY, was published in 1922 and still remains in print. Michael Bond’s adult books (or what Sam might call THE RED FACE MYSTERY) feature a culinary critic named Monsieur Pamplemousse.

Reka wrote to say: “Jane Langton! One of my favorite children's writers became one of my favorite authors of adult mysteries when she wrote the wonderful Homer Kelly series, set near the author's beloved Walden Pond.

Then there's Joan Aiken ("Beware of the Bouquet," anyone?) who wrote mysteries and thrillers and Jane Austen sequels as well as her incomparable Wolves chronicles.

And Nina Bawden and Penelope Lively have written a few adult mysteries, it seems.”

Ankita wrote to say, “Make an unforgettable event with our gorgeous flowers, designer flower bouquets, awesome flower arrangements, holiday gifts, birthday gifts, startling gift baskets, imported chocolate gifts and other thrilling gifts for delivery in Hong Kong.”

Thanks for your comments, Sam and Reka!

Go away, Ankita.


Blog reader CLM mentioned an intriguing tie-in between an adult mystery and a children’s novel.

In 1979, Dorothy Gilman (perhaps best-known for her “Mrs. Polifax” mysteries) wrote a stand-alone suspense novel called THE TIGHTROPE WALKER.

Throughout that book, the narrator frequently mentions her favorite childhood novel, THE MAZE AT THE HEART OF THE CASTLE. Many readers were so intrigued that they tried to track down that novel for themselves. Unfortunately, it was a fictitious title; no such book had ever existed.

However, in 1983, Dorothy Gilman actually published a children’s novel called THE MAZE AT THE HEART OF THE CASTLE, which was inspired by the fictional book she created for THE TIGHTROPE WALKERS.

This is very similar to what happened with Dean Koontz’s 1993 suspense novel MR. MURDER. That mystery for adults includes several scenes in which a father creates a rhymed bedtime story for his daughters called “Santa’s Twin.”

The tale of Santa’s Twin is truncated in MR. MYSTERY, but after publication Mr. Koontz received over 4000 letters from fans, demanding to hear the entire story. Three years later he published SANTA’S TWIN as a lavishly-illustrated book for children:

Can you think of any other titles that were conceived within the pages of an adult book and later published as children’s books?


Helen Schinske wrote to say, “I think I remember THE TIGHTROPE WALKER -- if it's the one I'm thinking of, there was some gossip a few years ago about a modern children's book possibly having been plagiarized from it.”

Yep, I remember that fuss as well.

Several readers thought there were some pretty strong similarities between THE TIGHTROPE WALKER and one of Betsy Byars’ “Herculeah Jones” mysteries, DEAD LETTER.

I read both books and did find the premise to be similar in both books, but the characters and general narrative styles were so different that I couldn’t get too incensed about it.

I do remember that at least one published review did note the similarities between the two books though.


As the year draws to a close, many people begin making predictions about what will happen in the coming year. Here’s one of my predictions buried within some thoughts about a forthcoming book.

I recently received an ARC of a new novel called NO PASSENGERS BEYOND THIS POINT by Gennifer Choldenko. Having enjoyed the author’s Newbery Honor AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS and, being the obedient type, I followed the directive on the cover: “Spectacular!! Drop everything and read me!!”

So I did.

In this timely story, a widowed mother loses her home to foreclosure and must send her three children -- earnest Finn, his typically teenage sister India, and their eccentric little sister Mouse -- to live with their uncle in Colorado. Instead, they land in an odd fantasy land where nothing makes sense. The ARC I read apparently had several pages missing. Strangely, this did not seem to impact the overall quality of this novel, which read like an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink fever dream, crammed with random details that neither advanced nor enhanced the plot. I was hoping the conclusion would tie everything together in one of those slap-yourself-on-the-side-of-the-head moments when one says, “Oh, NOW I get it!” But that was not the case for me. When the hardcover comes out, I think I’ll give this one another shot (hoping the chapter “India’s Cat,” which ran only two pages in the ARC, will be complete) to see if I can make heads or tails of it, but I suspect this is one of those hallucinogenic works that everyone seems to love but me. In fact, I’ll go further: I predict this is going to be one of those love-it-or-hate-it novels, and that next year at this time we will see its ardent fans (those who liked Horvath's EVERYTHING ON A WAFFLE, Potter's THE KNEEBONE BOY, or Grey's FALCON'S EGG…to name three other books whose meanings totally eluded me) pushing for this to win the Newbery, while a few detractors (those of us who never understood the charms of WAFFLES, KNEEBONES, or FALCON’S EGGS) will be standing on the sidelines sputtering, "But...but...but...."


CLM, who told me about the connection between TIGHTROPE WALKER and THE MAZE AT THE HEART OF THE CASTLE, recently mentioned a thought from Natalie Savage Carlson’s book LUVVY AND THE GIRLS: that it is a sign of weak character not to finish a book.



If it’s a sign of weak character not to finish a book, I’m sure my bookstore friends think I’m the weakest character of all! Seems like every time they ask me about a recently-purchased book, I respond, “Oh, I haven’t finished it yet.”

But I have to say that I seldom set a book aside with the intention of never returning to it. I almost always doget back to it, whether it takes days, weeks, months, or (gulp) years.

Today I did some hunting around the internet to see what some famous authors had to say on the subject of “finishing every book you start.”

My favorite author, M.E. Kerr, said: “I read an awful lot. I read too much because I can't really get everything out of it that I want to when I read that fast. And now I've learned that I don't have to finish a book and it's taken me a lifetime to learn that. I always felt that if I bought it or if someone gave it to me or I took it from the library, I would have to read it all but I don't do that anymore.”

Barbara Park write: “I used to have a policy that, no matter what, I would finish reading every book I started. Recently, I have readjusted my position on this issue. These days, I give a book about 100 pages to catch my interest. Then -- if I'm still not liking it -- I drop it like a hot potato! (Word of warning: DO NOT DO THIS WITH SCHOOL READING PROJECTS…and I MEAN it!)”

Gail Gauthier says, “Like many serious readers, I've always had a need to finish reading every book I start. Over the last few years, I've been able to begin to get over that compulsion by skimming books I'm not enjoying. I've only recently started giving up altogether. Giving up on 3 books in 24 hours as I did this weekend was a liberating experience. The number of books published goes up and up and up, but for some reason or another the number of hours in the day remains constant. How much of my life do I want to sacrifice reading stuff I don't like? Not much, it seems.”

So, what about you?

Do you finish every book you start?

If you don’t, how long do you give a book before giving up? 100 pages? One chapter? A few paragraphs…?


I often enjoy Adele Griffin’s books and I look forward to reading her latest, THE JULIAN GAME.

But does the dustjacket illustration give anyone else the willies?


Hope they come up with something a little more engaging for any future paperback editions and leave the current photo for the cover of a magazine like HIP PROCTOLOGISTS MONTHLY or maybe use it for some futuristic TSA poster.

Thanks for visiting Collecting Children’s Books. I hope to be back with at least one or two weekday reviews this week Hope you’ll join me!


Charlotte said...

another example of a book in a book, that ended up being writen-- Catherynne Valente wrote The Girl Who Cirumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, which began as a book in her adult novel, Palimpsest as a "pay if you like" book on went on to win the Andre Norton Award.

I would like very much to read the Fillory books from Lev Grossman's The Magician! The "author" already has his website up and running--

grrlpup said...

I remember reading somewhere about a group of nuns who read aloud together every evening (maybe while doing dishes or something). They would take a vote a third of the way through each book, and another vote two thirds of the way through, on whether to continue or start a new book. Ulp!

Nancy Werlin said...

Regrettably, SHIP BREAKER isn't eligible for the Morris. The award criteria specify a previously unpublished author, not just a first-time YA author.

Harper said...

I was watching HBO this morning while putting off going for a run in the cold. Interestingly enough, two movies in a row, both from 2009, mentioned children's books. In Adam, the lead female character is working on a children's book and aspires to win the Newbery. The end of the movie made me grumbly, though. Minor spoiler -- she sends her finished hardcover picture book to the lead male character, and are meant to believe that she wrote, illustrated, and went through the entire publication process within a one-year timeframe. Also, I had to inform the characters from my couch that she would be a candidate for the Caldecott (or Geisel) with her book, and not the Newbery!

After that, The Blind Side was on, and there's a (clunky) scene with Sandra Bullock's character's kids in a Borders, looking at Ferdinand and Where The Wild Things Are and other books their mom read to them when they were little.

I decided I would rather go for my run in the cold than finish watching The Blind Side.

...Which was a major thing for me, as I'm pretty obsessive about finishing the books and movies I start. If I put a book down before I finish it, I try to get back to it eventually. I have 5 or 6 I want to try to finish before the end of the year so that they can go on my 2010 book list. I can only think of one book from this year that I quit after about 25 pages. I suppose my reasoning for doing this is that I'm very picky about the books I start -- if a book makes its way to my house from the store or the library, it's because I've read several reviews of it and am fairly sure I'm going to like it. I do have a few every year that throw off my expectations, though.

Sandy D. said...

I stopped reading two YA books just this week (Hex Hall and The Body Finder). Just not keeping my interest after about 50-60 pages. In both cases, the blurbs and ideas were more interesting than the books themselves.

Or maybe I just wasn't in the mood for them now. I've got a stack of other books enticing me, and Lee Sandin's "Wicked River" (nonfiction, about the history of the Mississippi) is keeping my interest with no problem.

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ChrisinNY said...

Oh I love Jane Langton (The Diamond in the Window was an example, for me, of the perfect book at the perfect time.) As for not finishing. I used to finish everything. Now I used the "100 Test". You take your age, subtract it from 100. That is the amount of pages to read in a book before giving up. I think the theory is that as you get older you have a better feel for what works for you. could be that you are going to die and no one wants your last memory to be trudging (metaphorically) thru a book. You decide.

Anonymous said...

I give a book about 20 or 30 minutes of reading. I just recently realized that I'm not going to be able to read all the good books out there before I die (I'm 54) and I need to be picky.
I've also decided to take about a year and just read the books I own. I work in two libraries, so this will be hard- I'll have to check out things that interest me just to list them for later- but it's time I got more caught up with the ones I've been collecting all this time.
Jeanne K.

hschinske said...

Terry Pratchett's character Sam Vimes reads _Where's My Cow?_ to his small son every night. There is a picture-book version, but it's not exactly a straight _Where's My Cow?_ (which would be pretty boring, and very very like lots of other picture books that already exist), but includes Sam and Young Sam.

Helen Schinske

Bybee said...

This is slightly veering off topic, but I read Harriet the Spy again last month and discovered that the movie Mr. Waldenstein and Ole Golly take Harriet to was fictitious.

I stay with a book until I absolutely can't any more. It's a mad grapple in those last few pages as I struggle to hang on.

Laya said...

Oh, Lord. I have The Tightrope Walker--it's great!-- and was wondering about The Maze at the Heart of the Castle, but I thought naah, it couldn't be real. I didn't know that she did write it later! Thanks! Now I have another book to hunt down hehe. Did she ever write the sequel to Maze as well?

Fuse #8 said...

My library circulated Ghost Doll until fairly recently. I'd usually put it on the Halloween cart. I mean, if you don't consider THAT creepy, there's something truly amiss.

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Ms. Yingling said...

I'm glad I wasn't the only one confused by No Passengers. My son and I both read it on a snow day and it wasn't our favorite. Thanks for the heads up on the Griffin title, but it is a disturbing cover!