Friends, Romans, Countrymen....I am tired. I think it will take me a full week to recover from ALA Midwinter madness. If one must be tired though, this was a killer way to exhaust myself! In lieu of a thoughtful post (and I do have some brewing), here is a rundown of many books I caught a glimpse of that I wanted to share. (Please note though that there were several titles already on my radar - especially from First Second, Chronicle & Abrams, that I don't mention here. More on those in upcoming columns.)
1. The Cats of Tanglewood Forest by Charles de Lint, illustrated by Charles Vess. I saw this at the Little Brown breakfast and it is stunning; an illustrated MG Appalachian fairy tale that is a perfect match between author and artist. From the copy: In this whimsical, original folktale written and illustrated throughout in vibrant full color by two celebrated masters of modern fantasy, a young girl's journey becomes an enchanting coming-of-age story about magic, friendship, and the courage to shape one's own destiny.
2. Mister Orange translated from Dutch by Laura Watkinson, illus by Jenni Desmond. An intriguing sounding MG title set in NYC during WWII about a boy who takes over his older brother's delivery job and meets an eccentric customer called "Mister Orange" who is ultimately revealed as the painter Piet Mondrian. Their meetings and conversations provide the coming-of-age element to the story - all about life, war and the "freedom to create".
3. Weird Sea Creatures by Erich Hoyt. Major cool illustrated title on the animals that live in the depths of the ocean. The photos are amazing; I honestly can not get enough of this kind of thing, it's endlessly fascinating. (Ages 10 & up but really there's no age for this kind of book.)
4. My Parent Has Cancer and It Really Sucks! A collection of stories and advice from more than 100 teens who faced this crisis and the experts who helped them. Not a novel, not a candy-colored vision of illness but the real deal. Should be mandatory reading for everyone who seeks to romanticize disease.
5. Archangel by Andrea Barrett. I'm cheating a bit with this one as the book was not physically available yet, but I chatted with the WW Norton rep all about it and I'm just delighted to see Barrett return to the short story. From the copy: The first motorized bicycles, the first aeroplanes, the first amateur studies of genetics--twelve-year-old Constantine Boyd has his eyes opened to an unfolding world of scientific discovery in "The Investigators." In "The Ether of Space," "The Island," and "The Particles," young women and men passionate about the workings of the natural world experience the shock waves of Einstein's, Darwin's, and Mendel's work. And in "Archangel," Constantine Boyd returns as a soldier on the desolate fringes of Russia in 1919, where even the newly discovered magic of X-ray technology fails to offer the insight that might protect humans from the stupidity of war.
6. Brewster by Mark Slouka. An adult novel that looks to have crossover potential for older teens, the tagline here is about "two teenage boys and their hopes to escape from a dead-end town." It's set in 1968 and holds comparisons to Richard Russo and Andre Dubus III. I'm very interested by how common the theme sounds because it is something so many of us feel as teenagers but so few authors seem to capture well.
7. The Lego Minifigure Character Encyclopedia. My son is eleven; he screamed when I called him from the Exhibition Hall floor to tell him this was due out this spring.
8. Basher History: The U.S. Presidents. This is out now and is as good as the other classic Basher titles. Some of the YALSA teens wandered by when I was in the Kingfisher booth and they went nuts over the Basher books - scooping up posters of the Periodic Table and calling their friends over to see them. My geeky self was delighted and I'll be getting this book, like so many of the others, for my son for sure.
9. September Girls by Bennett Madison. Bennett is a favorite author of mine and I've heard good things about this one - it's one of the few ARCs I sought out over the weekend. This summer beach novel centers around teenage Sam and the mysterious beautiful girls he meets. It's a mermaid story but also about "oblivious parents, sibling rivalry, first loves..." It's called darkly imaginative and painfully honest - this just might be the mermaid tale I've been waiting for.
10. East of the Sun, West of the Moon by Jackie Morris. This jewel of a book (and I hope to review it along with de Lint's title in some kind of column down the line), is as lush and beautiful as it gets. From the copy: From the moment she saw him, she knew the bear had come for her. How many times had she dreamt of the bear.... Now, here he was, as if spelled from her dreams. "I will come with you, Bear," she said. It is the beginning of an extraordinary journey for the girl. First to the bears secret palace in faraway mountains, where she is treated so courteously, but where she experiences the bears unfathomable sadness, and a deep mystery...As the bears secret unravels, another journey unfolds... a long and desperate journey, that takes the girl to the homes of the four Winds and beyond, to the castle east of the sun, west of the moon.
11. Doll Bones by Holly Black. I have no idea how I did not know about this one - no idea at all - but here it is due out from McElderry in May and it involves scary dolls. (GAH!!!!) For MG readers, here's the description: Zach, Poppy, and Alice have been friends forever. And for almost as long, they've been playing one continuous, ever-changing game of pirates and thieves, mermaids and warriors. Ruling over all is the Great Queen, a bone-china doll cursing those who displease her.
But they are in middle school now. Zach's father pushes him to give up make-believe, and Zach quits the game. Their friendship might be over, until Poppy declares she's been having dreams about the Queen and the ghost of a girl who will not rest until the bone-china doll is buried in her empty grave.
Zach and Alice and Poppy set off on one last adventure to lay the Queen's ghost to rest. But nothing goes according to plan, and as their adventure turns into an epic journey, creepy things begin to happen. Is the doll just a doll or something more sinister? And if there really is a ghost, will it let them go now that it has them in its clutches?
12. Fifty Machines That Changed the Course of History by Eric Chaline. Part of a four book series that includes animals, minerals and the upcoming plants (which was stolen from their booth), these are very similar in format to DK or Thames & Hudson titles in the best way. As DK does so well, there is great information, short chapters and heavily illustrated pages but like Thames & Hudson, these have a more scholarly old world feel that makes them great for older teens and adults. Even the pages felt wonderful; really something special.
13. There is a stack of mysteries from Soho Press that is too much for here - I'm going to post a separate survey of them next week. If you love mysteries though, for adults or teens, you need to head over to their website and check them out.
14. And from the notes in my phone: Plague in the Mirror by Deborah Noyes, a time travel paranormal between the present day and 14th century Florence; Bad Girls, Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, etc. by Jane Yolen, a NF collection of short biographies and The Theory of Everything by JJ Johnson, about the longterm impact of grief. I was looking this one over and browsing the Peachtree booth when a librarian came up and positively raved about it. From the copy: Fifteen-year-old Sarah has been acting like a different person ever since she witnessed the gruesome accident that killed her best friend, Jamie. Sarah's grades are plunging, her sarcastic attitude is putting her family on edge, and she can't escape the feeling that life is random and meaningless. Sarah's turning point comes after she meets middle-aged Roy, who owns a Christmas tree farm where Sarah begins to work. Readers will easily relate to Sarah's use of cynicism as a defense mechanism -- her sharp-witted voice sets the tone for a story that's truly tragicomic. Equally entertaining are the hand-drawn graphs and diagrams that appear throughout (texts, stern lectures, tense silence, and breakfast constitute the bulk of a pie chart about Sarah's communication with her mother). The changes within Sarah are real and moving, and the open ending underscores the idea that although death may be certain, life is full of surprises.
15. I could go on and on and on but these are the standouts. More to follow as I go thru the Soho catalog and sort out the books reviewed in two recent issues of Booklist. Also, what I'm reading, what I'm reviewing and what I'm writing about (airplanes and mountains - big surprise).