Friday, February 26, 2010

Yes, Read Aloud

Jim Trelease's Read-Aloud Handbook had a very big impact at Chez Gauthier. I went to hear Trelease speak at our local elementary school when my oldest child was still a toddler. I brought his book home with me. His contention that boys model their behavior on their fathers and need to see their fathers (as well as other men) read, meant that the Gauthier boys had both parents reading to them (on alternating days) for years. They continued to read, themselves, into adolsecence, a point where conventional wisdom tells us that many males stop reading. And, surprise, today they tend to share their father's books and magazines rather than their mother's.

This makes me wonder what would have become of them if they hadn't had a reading father to model themselves upon or, even, a reading father who didn't know he needed to provide a model for his children. (This is what I call proactive parenting versus reactive parenting, by the way. But this isn't a parenting blog, so I won't say anymore about that.)

Just a few months ago I gave a young teaching family member a copy of The Read-Aloud Handbook for Christmas because I just can't let it go.

The book really has significance for me, so I'm happy to direct you to Jen Robinson's "reaction" to it.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Literary Adventures At The Laundromat

I have a sad Laundromat story to tell. I made my usual Thursday afternoon excursion to my local Laundromat where I have been a regular, off and on, for years and am on a first-name basis with Linda, the day manager. We're on a Laundromat routine right now because we've had some water issues here at Chez Gauthier that we're too exhausted to deal with. It's far, far easier to just go to the Laundromat, especially if I can get my favorite parking space by the front door.

Okay, well, whenever I go to the Laundromat, I get maybe twenty minutes to read. I always bring a book. I got my washers loaded (I only needed three this week), and I can't find my book. I was ninety percent certain I'd placed it on one of the baskets of laundry. I went out to the car twice to see if it had fallen out... lifted up my coat that I'd left on one of the machines...Nothing.

Gail, I said to myself, you didn't put it in one of the washers, did you? Because if you did, you're toast. Once these things are loaded and locked, it's like liftoff time at the Cape. There's no going back.

I was hopeful that I'd just left the book at home, because I couldn't hear any thumping the way you do when you, say, put a cell phone through the wash. I know that sound all too well.

I spent my twenty minutes of reading time with a four-year-old copy of Bon Appetit (I subscribed to Bon Appetit many years ago--a lot more recipes back then) and a back issue of Vanity Fair that included a fashion layout in which all the models had their mouths open and were staring at something off to one side and up. It's hard to believe anyone thought that was attractive.

I unload my two dark loads, which was pretty uneventful. Then it comes time for the megawasher of whites. First off, I find the two knee supports I thought I'd lost because I couldn't find them in my gear bag this morning when I was in the locker room before my taekwondo class. They must have become tangled up in the dobak I wore Tuesday. Huzzah! But then I find this doughy rectangle that was, indeed, my book. Or, we should say, the remains of my book. Except it wasn't my book. It was a book a family member had loaned my a few years back that I was just getting around to reading.

I was worried the book might be out of print, and I'd be unable to replace it. But you will all be relieved to know that that's already taken care of.

The really interesting part of this story--in the event that you haven't been fascinated enough thus far--is that the cover of the book had totally disappeared. It appears to have dissolved.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Makes You Wonder Just What Nonfiction Really Is, Doesn't It?

Oz and Ends had a nice little discussion going on The Idea That the Story Is True versus, say, it's really being true. It's kind of a mind-boggling concept.

The article J.L. Bell links to includes the following quote: "Mezrich's response to these specifics is to say that everything he describes is accurate, only that it didn't necessarily happen to the people, in the places, or at the times it occurs in the book."

Ah...define "accurate."

Come on, if a writer is going to do this kind of thing, why not just use the material in a piece of really good fiction?

Okay, This Must Mean Something Regarding Twilight's Impact

I thought this Verizon Twilight Parody was hysterical when I saw it last night. Don't expect to laugh until the last few seconds.

And, of course, you'll probably only get it if you've read the second book or seen the movie.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How Dreadful Am I?

Yesterday, I managed to foist off Easter dinner on another family member. Easter dinner is traditionally my meal. Why was I so happy, even eager, to see the thing go off to Massachusetts?

Because I don't want to take time off from work to get ready for it!!!

The shopping, the cooking, the cleaning...I most definitely would have had to take Good Friday off to get it all done. It can take me two or three days to get ready for a holiday gathering, easily.

I kind of hate myself, but not all that much.

A Lot To Think About

I know that a lot of blog writers like to write about books they love. I have to say I'm at least as interested in books like Big Fat Manifesto by Susan Vaught. I can't say I loved it, but there's a lot to think about here, making the book worthy of attention.

I have a lot of trouble reading books about boyfriends and shopping. When a book starts out with the female main character getting together with her girlfriends to go shopping and talk about boyfriends, I have to throw in the towel right away. I know YA is for YAs, and if YA girls, God love them, want to read about boyfriends and shopping, they should most definitely do it. I, however, should most definitely not do it. I have only so many reading years left, and I need to ration them carefully.

Big Fat Manifesto starts out with shopping and a boyfriend, but I got excited about it because there was something more there. Jamie, our female main character, is fat. (Her term, not mine. I definitely prefer obese, which she rejects as too clinicial.) Three hundred plus pounds fat, and she doesn't care who knows it. The shopping trip that begins the book is an undercover operation to research shopping problems for people of weight, research she will use in her column for her high school paper. The column is called Fat Girl, and in it she speaks for all fat girls and fat boys for that matter. Now, as a general rule, devices like letters, journals, newspaper columns, seem sort of forced in books. However, the logic behind this one works. Jamie wants to submit these columns to an agency that awards scholarships.

Jamie/Fat Girl comes across as very strident, one of those people who see weight as a political or social issue. And that was interesting. But I found it sort of odd that this is a book about the hardships faced by the quite seriously obese, but it also maintains some of the boyfriend and shopping stereotypes you find in teen books about...well, boyfriends and shopping. Jamie is part of a three-girlfriend set, which is the mandatory friendship circle in YA, and she is torn between two lovers, which appears so often in books that it must be some kind of fundamental fantasy among human females. I can see why author Vaught wanted to create a set-up in which the so-called fat girl has a normal teenage life. (Yeah, I know. All normal teenage girls have two guys panting after them.) But the basic point of this book is that this girl doesn't have a normal teenage life. She has trouble buying clothes, traveling, even getting her blood pressure taken. I don't think the she's-normal/she's-not-normal thing quite worked.

What's more, I kept wondering why Jamie never tried to lose weight. Toward the end of the book we finally learn that she had tried in the past, but why her attempts all failed was never addressed. I understood why she's heavy. Overeating is part of her family's culture. But I never understood why another character, Burke, was so heavy that he was considered a candidate for bariatric surgery. How did he get into that shape, and why didn't his affluent, highly educated, loving parents try other options for weight loss before allowing him to subject himself to surgery?

The end of the book was a little problematic for me, too. We're told there's a change in Jamie's character, which is always a good thing in a book...dynamic character and all that... But it's hard to see how that character change is going to make any real difference.

I may have been thinking way too much while I was reading this thing, but I wondered if some people would consider Big Fat Manifesto a "problem" novel, one of those how-do-I-deal-with-this-situation books. Did I feel that way about it? If so, are problem books far more readable if you have a dog in the race, so to speak? Because while I have always been within spitting distance of a normal weight, myself, I come from a family that has been marked by obesity and the many, many, many problems that accompany it for four generations. Probably more, but my memory only goes back to the great-aunts and uncle. I will spare you the details, but I could go on at quite some length on the subject.

Thus, while I suspect some readers might find Jamie's Fat Girl columns to be something of a soapbox, I was glued to them. I had to skim the boyfriend sections of the book because, as a general rule, adolescent romance is lost on me. But bring out the fitness discussion, whether I agree with what's said or not, and I am there.

All in all, I'd have to say that for those readers who like their boyfriend and shopping stories to have something a bit more thought provoking going for them, Big Fat Manifesto has quite a bit to offer.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

I Actually Have One Of These

I came to James Hynes' Commonplace-Book by leaping from one blog to another. You know how that happens. His Commonplace-Book is a page on his website on which he "records passages or matters to be especially remembered or referred to, with or without arrangement."

As soon as I saw it, I realized I've had one for years. Mine's a notebook, not a webpage, though, and it's about half full now of quotations on writing, art, and all kinds of painful stuff (sometimes sappy on the subject of pain, too) that I thought meaningful at some point or another. I was inspired to do this a great many years ago when a friend who used to live here in town gave a winter solstice party (She used to do it every year--those were the days!) and presented all the guests with sheets of paper with, essentially "passages or matters to be especially remembered or referred to, with or without arrangement."

I just opened my commonplace book and saw, "Everything you do is screamed at by what you haven't been doing...Grace Paley" Holy Moses. I've been recalling that line over and over again these last few weeks, I just no longer knew where I'd seen it. I still don't know how I came to see it in the first place, but for years it's been in my commonplace book.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Weekend Events

I made another trip to Simmons College in what is becoming my favorite area of Boston. For now, anyway. While in the city I went to the Museum of Fine Arts. I do not tell you this to bore you with the events of my day. Oh, no. I tell you because I was at the museum to do research for a project I've been thinking about, I believe, for around nine years. I can't be certain because in the past I haven't done a good job dating my writers' workbooks. But the one in which I find the first references to said project appears to be from 2001.

I would write more this evening, but I just had to spend some time watching Johnny Weir's Olympic performances on-line because I missed them during the week. In a world in which there are limited amounts of time, one must make hard choices.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

At Last, The Chrestomanci Post

Okay, here it is, that Chrestomanci post I've been talking about.

Chrestomanci is a title held by a character named Christopher Chant who appears in six books and four short stories by Diana Wynne Jones. The universe of the book is made up of multiple worlds in which magic may or may not exist to varying degrees. The person who holds the title Chrestomanci is always an enchanter with nine lives, and his function is to "police" the use of magic. He's a government employee, actually.

The novels are available these days in three volumes, each containing two books. The short stories, I believe, are out of print. I got a copy from a library and then bought a beautiful paperback from an on-line dealer.

I have to admit, I found some technical glitches with these books:

Some may find this nitpicky, but I noticed from the very first book that Wynne Jones uses a noticable number of "echoes." Echoes occur when an author uses a word two or more times within a couple of sentences, making the second word strikingly noticeable to the reader. Echoes break flow, unlike parallel construction, which sort of forces flow to follow a certain flow. (Echo!) Echoes are usually caught by copy editors, which is why I know about them. Copy editors have caught (most) of the ones I've made in the past.

Chrestomanci is one of those Pimpernel/Wimsey like characters who appear to be far less powerful than they are. In Chrestomanci's case, he is often described as looking vague or appearing to be vague. That is a sign, for the people who know him, that he is on top of his game. The word "vague" is used to describe him so frequently that it becomes an annoying mannerism--like when a character is constantly adjusting her glasses or rolling his eyes. I also sometimes wondered if it really described anything. What the heck does vague mean in this context?

Some people might think that some of the boy main characters--Cat, young Christopher, and the Italian kid whose name I can't remember--seemed a bit alike. And some of the books include explanation scenes at the end, sort of like when the detective explains everything at the end of a mystery novel.

But as I said, those are all technical things. What is interesting and attention-grabbing about these books might be described as their more conceptual aspects.

Chrestomanci is a charismatic, adult character in a children's book. However, in most of his books, he is not the main character. The main characters are always children who are discovering who they really are. In fact, in the only book in which he is the main character, Chrestomanci is a child. What's more, though Chrestomanci appears to fix problems related to magic, he usually cannot do so without the assistance of child characters. He is not a grown-up who simply waves a magic wand and makes everything okay. There is no doubt whatsoever that these are kids' books, in spite of his presence.

Though these books always involve child characters discovering that they have magical abilities, and though there is a recurring adult character, the books are very different. Yes, the world building is the same, but the storylines are different, and the settings are often much different.

Chrestomanci is used differently in different books and stories. In one book, the young Christopher Chant is the main character. In another, the adolescent Christopher Chant is important, but not the first-person narrator. (I believe that was the only book with a first-person narrator.) In other books the adult Chrestomanci is a major player. In some he doesn't appear until more than halfway through the book. In one of the short stories, he doesn't appear at all--he is mentioned twice. As a writer, I love the idea of using the same character in different ways. I love trying out a first-person narrator after having used a third for so many books.

These six books are not a serial, meaning we're not talking one giant story told over six books, which must be read in a particular order or nothing makes sense. Though Wynne Jones is supposed to have suggested an order for reading the books, and they are available now as Volumes I, II, and III, suggesting an order, I actually read the most recently written book first, then Volumes II, I, and one of the books in Volume III. I can't remember at what point I read the short stories. My point (echo!) being, a reader can truly just enter this world and move about in it because the stories are each unique.

Power is not related to beauty in these books. Though Chrestomanci, himself, is an attractive man, his love interest is a plain girl (and then woman) who is a very powerful enchantress. She is very necessary to him. The children they have together are not traditionally physically attractive children. I love this.

As a reader who came late to fantasy and still, as a general rule, doesn't care for what's termed high fantasy, I'd have to say that reading these books was educational. These books aren't just a hodge podge of fantastical gimmicks. Character, plot, and setting, elements that are important to all fiction, really need to be seriously addressed in a fantasy novel. And it seems to me that they are here.

On the other hand, these were my comfort books, and perhaps I just want to think well of them.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I Don't Know How Funny These Are, But...

Take a look at Humorous Reminders of Common Writing Mistakes. Note that they are introduced with the line "Here are a few things to keep in mind when you write an essay." I think some of these are appropriate in fiction, where you are often trying to create a mood of some sort or a particular type of voice for characters who may very well break all kinds of rules in their speech.

I don't know what a barbarism is (23). As far as 16, "Don't use contractions," is concerned, I think that's only true if you're a Klingon.

Found at Nathan Bransford's blog.

Monday, February 15, 2010

And The Cybil Winners Are

The 2009 Cybils winners were announced yesterday.

Marcus Interview

I am a big fan of Minders of Make-Believe by Leonard S. Marcus, so I was happy to read this excellent interview with him at Cynsations.

What A Whiner

I've been going through some old notebooks looking for material on a project I've been thinking about for, I don't know, seven years, maybe, and am just getting around to starting. I'm finding all this stuff from around 2004 and 2005 in which I complain about how little work I'm doing and how my work problems aren't related to lack of creativity but lack of structure and how I'm so frustrated with myself for having forgotten to write morning pages and how, once again, I'm trying to come up with another process that will make me more productive. It's depressing as hell reading all this crap. Then there are many pages where I took notes on books about writing that I'd read and remember next to nothing about now.

Evidently I overslept more frequently back then than I do now, too. I don't know what that was about.

Write Those Kiddie Memoirs

I think more memoirs should be written for child readers. In case anyone is thinking of giving it a shot, you might try looking at Tips for Writing and Selling the Book-Length Memoir Part I and Tips for Writing and Selling the Book-Length Memoir Part II at Guide to Literary Agents.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Writing To The Test

I saw a family member who teaches second grade this afternoon. He talked about the need at his school to make all teaching relate to standardized testing.

In one of those marvelous weird connections things that are always happening to me, I just happened upon Best Book Awards for Teaching to the Test at The Book Whisperer.

Carnival Time

Quite a lengthy Carnival of Children's Literature appeared at Jenny's Wonderland of Books on January 29th. (To give you some idea of where I am in my reading of children's lit blogs. I'm further behind in my other two categories.)


A few years back, I read about a woman who had self-published a couple of books about her experiences as a wife and mother. She said that she was careful to put only short amounts of text on each page because she wrote for women, and women were busy and didn't have time to read much.

I have a hard time coming up with the words to describe how I felt about that.

I kept thinking of that woman as I read Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson. The pieces in this book (the structural layout is a little odd, in that things seem run together though they aren't) are just so well done. You never get the feeling that Jackson considered her readers--whomever they ended up being--too busy to consume good writing. She writes of experiences common to women, and she gives mending and going shopping with the kids the attention and style those tasks deserve.

I believe Jackson to have been a writer who was very interested in women's lives. You see it in her short stories, and again in Savages. Her work reflects the period in which she lived. In Savages, for instance, Jackson smokes during pregnancy and appears to have thought nothing of it.

You don't see a lot of Jackson the writer in Life Among the Savages, and when you do, it's in a heartbreaking passage in which she describes being admitted into the maternity ward. When asked her occupation by a clerk,

"Writer," I said.

"Housewife," she said.

"Writer," I said.

"I'll just put down housewife," she said.

Jackson doesn't comment on the exchange, but I don't think she has to.

About those savages--they are piece of works. Jackson, as she appears in this work, clearly loves them. But those kids are...difficult to describe. They have fantasy lives at a time when fantasy lives may not have been all that desirable. They are outspoken with one another and with everyone else. In the last pages the three older ones are introduced to their new baby brother, whom they refer to as "it." These are not Mother's Day greeting card children by a long shot.

As I've often said, I was a big Jackson fan when I was a teenager, and I suspect I read this book back then. I probably found those kids funny, but I couldn't possibly have understood all that was going on here. This is a book for adults (male and female) who don't give a damn about how much they have to read in order to share an experience with a writer.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Little Something About Steampunk

Guide to Literary Agents did a post last month called Everything You Would’ve Asked About Steampunk, Had You Known It Existed. Guest columnist Matt Betts quoted agent Joanna Stampfel-Volpe as saying that steampunk is "not just magic with things just appearing out of thin air, but it's people inventing things—even if these steam-powered/clockwork run machines are ultimately too fantastical to ever actually exist in real life, it feels like...well maybe they really can. That's probably the kid in me wishing for that, but who cares, right?"

This reminded me of a Garrison Keillor column at Salon, in which he talked about how there used to be a romantic element to building and creating things that seems to have been lost the last couple of decades or so. Perhaps steampunk, particularly steampunk for children, brings back some of that romance.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Hey! I Bought A Book About Hieroglyphs, Too!

This little piece about research by Abby Geni, which appeared in the Glimmer Train Bulletin No. 23 (from December, 2008--sad to say, it is still in my in-basket) is so true. I'm just starting research on Egypt for a new project. Or, rather, a project I've been thinking about for nine years or so but have just started doing something about.

I've owned that book about hieroglyphics (mine calls them hieroglyphs) for a number of years.

I Prefer "Analytical Response," Myself

Personally, I try to avoid using the term "negative review." But Eric at Pimp My Novel doesn't mind using it. He did a post last month called On the Importance of Negative Reviews.

Among the things he has to say:

" of the principle reasons why, à mon avis, the negative review should be written: to help correct the bias generated by solely positive reviews, since such reviews are oftentimes met only with silence by those with dissenting opinions."

"...rarely do we question a positive or even neutral response to a book, but as soon as someone indicates that they didn't like—or even flat-out hated—that book, we immediately want to know why."

I would go even further and say, Rarely do we hear shock over a positive or even neutral response to a book. Okay, people sneer over The Da Vinci Code and the multiple Twilights, but when do you see an outright attack on a review recommending those books? It's not at all unusual, though, to see outrage expressed because someone pointed out some flaws in a fan favorite.

Why are we so put out by what we consider misplaced negativity, but we let misplaced praise roll off our backs? Critically speaking, isn't one just as bad as the other?

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Same Thomas King

Cynsations did a post last month on the American Indian Youth Services Awards. The winner for best picture book was A Coyote Solstice Tale by Thomas King with illustrations by Gary Clement.

This is the same Thomas King who wrote Green Grass, Running Water, which is where I first encountered Coyote. Quite a good book, as I recall.

Monday, February 08, 2010

I Did Think About A Little Video Something

For a while now I've been thinking about adding some kind of little video bit to my website. I wanted something witty, something that didn't take itself too seriously, something like Mark Peter Hughes has done. I thought it would be something unique and up-to-date to add to my website, but at the same time something that I could do once and be finished.

I never pursued this idea because I was afraid my computer guy would snap if I brought it up. And now Mark Peter Hughes has done it, so I can't do it without looking far less unique and cutting edge than I was hoping for. So that's kind of a load off my mind.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Trout Fishing...What Does It Mean?

I was cleaning my shower stall yesterday morning (I'll spare you the details other than to say it had been a while since I'd been in there with cleanser and a chisel) when I heard a piece on NPR about Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan. Wow. That sure made the work go easier.

I'm not going to tell you that Trout Fishing in America is a great book for YAs. I will say that I read it when I was a YA. I'm not going to tell you I loved it. I will say, as I did a couple of years ago, that it gave me a "feeling of possibility."

In honor of Trout Fishing in America's rerelease, I have moved my personal--and very old--copy off the bookshelf and into the To Read basket. That means that at some point, you will be stuck reading about my experience rereading it.

Until then...

Oh, wait! Do you want to hear something weird? I went to church today, which happens about as often as I clean my shower stall. And what was the Scriptural reading? Fishers of men! (Luke 5: 1-11) Which, of course, led the minister to lead and finish with fishing stories.

Fishing stories...Trout Fishing in America...What does it all mean?

Friday, February 05, 2010

Ecolit Discussion Group

Among the 700 messages that I just downloaded was a response giving me permission to tell you all about Ecolit, a discussion group for sharing information about children's and YA books relating to environmental issues. Looking over last month's posts, it looks as if there are opportunities there for book discussions and finding materials such as science blogs.

Regarding That Time Problem I Was Just Mentioning

I've noticed that I haven't been receiving e-mails from any of my five listservs for a couple of weeks. That was okay. I didn't have time to deal with it recently, anyway. But this week, I began to get suspicious. And I've been getting odd e-mails from my Internet access provider regarding some kind of full mailbox. Couldn't imagine what those folks were talking about.

Then today I said to my computer guy, "Guy, do you suppose there's some connection between the e-mails I've been receiving from the Internet folks and the e-mails I haven't been receiving from all my listservs? Because I gotta wonder."

He looked into it, waved his hands over the computer keyboard, said a few incantations, and the next thing I knew, I had over 700 new e-mails downloading.

So now I'm more than 700 messages behind with the listservs and 363 posts behind with the blog reader.

Yeah, I'm gonna go sign up for Twitter! And Facebook, too!

Why I Might In The Future And, Once More, Why I'm Not Now

Yes, yes. I'm about to whine about marketing again.

By way of Jill Corcoran Books, I found Lisa Schroeder's blog post on Twitter From One Author's Point Of View. She gives compelling reasons to jump on the Twitter train and, maybe, when I find myself with a new book contract and a new book, I'll get on board.

But, as I'm sure I've said here before, the time issue is a big one for me. I've had problems for several years with distraction, which has often burned up my writing time. I'm just getting that under control now, but a big part of the reason I'm finally getting it under control is due to the fact that because of family commitments I'm now down to working only three days a week. Notice I didn't say I'm down to writing three days a week. I've got three days a week to write, deal with business correspondence, prepare for any appearances that come up, maintain the website, blog, keep up with listservs, and keep up with what's happening at other blogs.

Does anyone else notice how writing gets buried in that list?

While I accept that Twitter is the cutting edge marketing tool for writers right now, keep in mind that the same was true for websites thirteen or fourteen years ago. Then came weblogs. Listservs were talked up to writers as a way to meet the right people. What I'm getting at here is, Twitter isn't going to be the end. Once I add Twitter to the mix, I'll be maintaining a website, a blog, staying up with the blogosphere, keeping up with listservs, and Twittering. Then it will be time to get started on something else.

If you noticed the dates on the blog posts I linked to above, you saw that I'm close to a month behind in my reading of blogs in my agent/editor category.

I did get some good work done this morning. Now I am off to do some business and then some early work/research for a new project.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

So That Was What Ailed Him

Last September, when I read Charles and Emma, I wondered why Charles Darwin was sick so often. In a Salon book review, he's said to have been a hypochondriac. He is one of the nine figures described in The Hypochondriacs: Nine Tormented Lives by Brian Dillon.

Chrestomanci, Chrestomanci! Come quickly!

A character calls Chrestomanci with the above words in Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones. I did pretty much the same thing last night.

I had just started reading an adult novel that began with a stampede of circus animals. Way to go! But chapter two suddenly took us to a nursing home where an elderly man is living. I was reading along, feeling just a bit stunned, because we've just been through that situation. But I figured the character is going to be recalling the story for us, and if I can just grit my teeth and control my post- traumatic stress syndrome, he'll move into his past very soon.

Indeed, he did. In chapter three he is a college student who learns that his parents have both been killed.

At that point, I thought, first, This cannot possibly be good for me, and second, Chrestomanci, where are you?

He was on the stack of books on the floor next to the bed. I'm at the climactic point in Charmed Life and will finish that tonight before trying a Terry Pratchett novel. But I will keep my comfort books nearby, just in case.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Roundups For The Littlies

The Reading Tub's Blog has started a monthly carnival of easy readers and short chapter books, which it is calling I Can Read. While at the January post, I learned that the Jean Little Library blog has a post on all the Cybil nominations for easy readers and beginning chapter books with links to reviews.

I became interested in chapter books while I was writing a couple of books for kids in the early grades. It seemed to me that a lot of the books written for younger kids are...well...not terrific. I read a dreadful early reader back in December, as a matter of fact. I was shocked...shocked, I tell how bad it was. On top of that, these easier books don't seem to get a lot of attention from adults. Middle grade and YA are the hip and happening categories, probably because they're closer to what we like to read for ourselves.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Hunt For Science Fiction

Charlotte's Library, which is a blog specifically about fantasy and science fiction for children and teenagers, does weekly roundups of blog reviews of middle grade fantasy and science fiction. You'll also find posts there on new scifi and fantasy releases.

You'll have to go through all these yourselves to work out which are science fiction, but you should at least be able to find some there.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Things Aren't Bad All Over

I met a couple of editors of engineering textbooks last week. I grabbed my chance to ask them if people were running scared in textbook publishing. Were editors dropping like flies? Were they becoming agents to try to stay employed?

Au contraire. They and, to their knowledge, other textbook publishers had had very good years. Met their goals and surpassed them, in fact.

I'm guessing that while the economy is bad, folks are heading to college and staying there, hoping to ride out financial hard times.

I also learned that textbook authors don't get advances, by the way. Just in case anyone is thinking of going that route.

Comfort Books

The Gauthiers suffered through a rough half year, and things were particularly bad since the middle of November. One day last fall I was supposed to just leave some books off at the library and then race out of the building because I had so many things I needed to do related to sick family members. But I stayed to hunt for something that would divert me from the reality of my life. A book. Preferably part of a series so that I could read and read and stay plenty diverted.

I found nada that day, but later in the year I was in another library where I stumbled upon the second volume of The Chronicles of Chrestomanci by Diana Wynne Jones. I'll be discussing the Chrestomanci series in a later post, but for now it's enough to say that I found my diversion.

I bought Volume I of The Chronicles because I had to have it right away. The Pinhoe Egg is part of this series, and even though I'd read it before, with mixed feelings, I read it again. I read a book of short stories about Chrestomanci. I bought Volume III, even though by that point I'd read one of the two books it contains.

In fact, I bought everything Chrestomanci, whether I'd just read library editions or not, because I was afraid that some day I would need them again, and what if I couldn't get them because they were out of print? What if some day I wanted to give them to someone?

Last week, when things went from bad to worse here, I picked up one of the books, just a couple of months after having finished it, and started reading it again. Okay, it wasn't quite the escape it was the first time, but there was nothing else in the house that was better. I went to the library today and picked up a few things, but if they don't do it for me, I'll stick with Chrestomanci.

Chrestomanci is a figure in a magical world whose function is to control magic. He comes when people call him, and he fixes things. (Though I'll have more to say about that another time.) You don't have to be the psychological equivalent of a rocket scientist to see why someone experiencing bad times would be attracted to him.

We had a family member reading multiple volumes of Fox Trot last week. Another recalled during an earlier loss reading issue after issue of National Geographic. Clearly, when it comes to comfort, each goes his or her own way.

Feel free to suggest your favorite comfort book.