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.
A CHRISTMAS GIFT FROM HALLMARK
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!
SPOT THE DIFFERENCE
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:
JANIS JOPLIN : RISE UP SINGING by Ann Angel
THEY CALLED THEMSELVES THE KKK : THE BIRTH OF AN AMERICAN TERRORIST GROUP by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
SPIES OF MISSISSIPPI : THE TRUE STORY OF THE SPY NETWORK THAT TRIED TO DESTROY THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT by Rick Bowers
THE DARK GAME : TRUE SPY STORIES by Paul Janeczko
EVERY BONE TELLS A STORY : HOMININ DISCOVERIES, DEDUCTIONS, AND DEBATES by Jill Rubalcaba and Peter Robertshaw
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!
THE FLOATING CHUCKIE DOLL
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 Amazon.com 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.
ADULT MYSTERIES THAT INSPIRED CHILDREN’S BOOKS
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?
SPEAKING OF THE TIGHTROPE WALKER…
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!