Angela Sherrill says this is the best short article on bullying and school policy you'll read.

This is strong stuff.

You'll want to click through to read the full post by guest poster and YA author Mike Harmon on book blog Random Acts of Reading.

Todd was quiet, personable, received good grades, and was a football player with scholarships in his future. He’d never been in trouble with the school or the law.

Then he threw two punches and it almost all fell apart. Garrett, a wrestler, bumped into Todd in the hall. Words followed. Garrett pushed, then tried to punch him. Todd threw two punches, breaking Garrett’s eye socket, nose, and fracturing his jaw. My son’s friend saw it happen. Blood flew everywhere, Garrett fell to the ground, and Todd walked away.

[Full post: Author Mike Harmon on Bullying and Schools]

 

Angela Sherrill picks Three Thrillers for Teens and Adults

I'm glad to welcome Angela Sherrill back to the pixels & pages of my3books, writing in with new perspectives on children's publishing & bookselling from her new job.

There are many readers out there who are in for the thrill of it.  As children they may have read Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys or any variety of adventure stories.  As these readers age, many make their way into mysteries and crime fiction (or romance), where they can get lost in the breadth of their preferred genre. Here are three contemporary favorites perfect for the thrill seeker in all of us, no matter our preferred genre.

   

Blink & Caution
by Tim Wynne-Jones
Candlewick Press | 9780763639839 | $16.99 | March 2011

How had I missed this guy?  He's got a slew of awards for his books. He penned sixteen rockin' Fraggle songs. You know, like the ones about Doozer flooping in the episode “Doozer is as Doozer Does”. 

My excuse? Like many others, I assumed he was I some way related to the fantasy queen Diana Wynne Jones.  My evil brain then created a narrative in which he got his book contracts based on his “wife's” reputation.  Therefore, the contents were likely rubbish.  I even made up an excuse why his name was hyphenated and not hers!

When I was told otherwise, I quietly dismissed the truths that did not fit my narrative. After hearing about the Winter Institute buzz over Blink & Caution and seeing a trusted GoodReads pal dive in, I gently set my carefully crafted narrative aside and picked up the book. 

What I discovered was a contemporary, literary thriller that pleases. Two young urban characters who foolishly chase trouble while fleeing from their own inner-demons win your support as you root for them to stop the cycle of self-deprecation. I was wrapped up in the story, but I was entranced by the writing. Often poetic, yet always on the move, my mind played a tug-of-war wanting to re-read and slowly swallow lines while at the same time find out what happens next.  You, too, will be wrapped-up and entranced.  With a stylish cover lacking in cliché teen images, you can proudly carry this one around with you on the train, plane, or beach. No one has to know it's intended for teens. 

Check out Elizabeth Bluemle's Shelftaker post for more TWJ (as you too will soon be referring to him) fan-fare. 

***

Flip
by Martyn Bedford
Wendy Lamb Books | 9780385739900 | $15 | April 2011

Here's an except from my early-read notes on the FLIP manuscript. Wendy Lamb was kind enough to let me  read the manuscript almost a year ago as she was brushing it up for publication.  I gave her a page full of glowing remarks.  Her practiced hand edited my most absurd comment, which I will paste here for my own amusement:

“If Annie Wilkes was holding Margaret Peterson Haddix hostage and forcing her to rewrite Todd Strasser's HELP, I'M TRAPPED series, you might end up with something almost as good as Martyn Bedford's FLIP.”

And, here's an excerpt from what The Guardian's Snork Maiden so deftly says about FLIP – in case you're the sort who likes a concise sensible review:

“This book is extremely gripping. It is fast-paced but still keeps you guessing and the plot is clever and unique, throwing you straight into the action right from the beginning. It's all about a normal boy who suddenly finds himself in an impossible situation, and has to find a way to get out of it pretty much on his own. Martyn Bedford is an excellent writer and captures the life of a teenage schoolboy brilliantly, with his writing style and dialogue. Alex appreciates the life he had so much more when it is suddenly snatched away from him. Every little thing he took for granted before, he longs for now. The book has an underlying message telling us to be grateful for the life we have because maybe it doesn't always seem that great, but at least it's ours.”

Ditto The Snork Maiden.

***

Acceleration
by Grahame McNamee
Laurel Leaf/Dell | 9780440238362 | $6.99 | May 2005

For a long time, I thought I didn't like thrillers. I liked emotional YA and magical middle readers.  I could do without criminal elements and murder mysteries.  The Edgar Awards were not on the top of my reading list. And then, I read this.  I was blown away and thought, “I do like thrillers, after all!”

Duncan works at the Toronto subway system's lost and found department over the summer.  One day, he comes upon an abandoned notebook only to discover the collected scraps and intentions of a psychopath.  He decides it is up to him to track down said disturbed person and save the unsuspecting victims.  I know it sounds unoriginal, but you'll be hanging on the whole time. If you've got $7 and a couple of hours you can't go wrong with this one. Tucked inside this mass market paperback is a real gem. 

***

ANGELA'S NEW BIO:

Angela K Sherrill is the Collection Development Manager for Children's Plus Inc., a children's book binder and distributer located just south of Chicago. She spent 8 years managing children's book at 57th Street Books in Hyde Park and continues to coordinate the annual 57th Street Children's Book Fair, a street festival that celebrates the love of reading and the joys of childhood.  

Angela Sherrill Picks Three Picture Books for Young Urbanites

According to U.S. Census data there were over 200,000 children under the age of 5 living in the city of Chicago ten years ago.  Despite being a city of neighborhoods, most of those children were facing urban living in all its extremes.  For those 200,000 some children, especially those who might be suburban transplants, here are three picture books that address real urban fears and issues, yet celebrate the magic of life in the big city.  

   

There are No Scary Wolves
by Hyewon Yum
Farrar Straus Giroux | 9780374380601 | $16.99 | Oct 2010

A surprising omission from the 2010 NYT Best Illustrated list, this new picture book is the wonderful story of a young urbanite overcoming his fears.  He is quite comfortable in the confines of his house and excited to go out to his favorite noodle shop and toy store. Nonetheless, while waiting for his mother to find her keys (seemingly endless minutes!), our young narrator's mind wanders and he imagines himself heading out alone. 

In this scenario his everyday acquaintances and all strangers become scary wolves.  With encouragement and accompaniment from his mother, the scary wolves become the friendly shop clerks and the trip is successful. Even if you buy this one for the story, you'll want to keep for the quirky illustrations.

 

The Little Bit Scary People

by Emily Jenkins
illustrated by Alexandra Boiger
Hyperion | 9781423100751 | $16.99 | 2008

Emily Jenkins (aka E. Lockhart) has garnered accolades in a variety of writings, particularly those for children.  This isn't even her only picture book about urban living, but it is a notable one.  Like Yum's book, Jenkins addresses the childhood fear of strangers, or people one might encounter in the wide, wide world. 

From a skateboarder to a police officer, we see through the eyes of our young narrator that people who seem “a little bit scary” at first are just like people we know. The fun illustrations help urban caricatures become normalized in a way that alleviates fear and comforts the reader.  Even adults will smile at the alternative perspectives this story encourages.

 

The Girl on the Yellow Giraffe
by Ronald Himler
Star Bright Books | 9781932065930 | $15.95 | original publication: 1976, republished 2004

This story was originally published in 1976 and beautifully reprinted in 2004.  We are lucky to have this one back in print; it's a gem!  The story reads like a legend or fairy tale and somehow evokes two completely different worlds simultaneously. 

In this mesmerizing tale of city life our young giraffe rider encounters a magic box (elevator), sees a wizard at work (a homeless man feeding birds), passes monsters and dragons (construction equipment), and navigates an otherwise unremarkable urban terrain. What makes this one a winner is the careful language and perfectly matched illustrations that both illuminate and temper the urban setting. While some readers may contribute the brilliance of this pairing to the healthy imagination of our young giraffe rider, others will note the perfect parallel that Himler presents in the classic picture book form. 

 

Angela Sherrill was the children's book buyer at 57th Street Books in Hyde Park for 8 years.  She is currently looking for her next bookish adventure, but will continue to share her passion for noteworthy reads here at my3books.

 

FURTHER READING & RESEARCH:

Hyewon Yum: homepage | her publisher's page

Emily Jenkins (aka E. Lockhart): homepage | blogtwitter

Alexandra Boiger: homepage | blog | a post about "The Little Bit Scary People"

Ronald Himler: homepage

Star Bright Books: homepage | twitter

57th Street Books' Angela Sherrill picks three books about Wolves

"Teens & Wolves: A Post in Two Voices"


The Program:
 At 57th Street Books, I have a Kid and Teen Critic review program, where I exchange ARCs and galleys for reviews.  ARCs are hand-selected to match the individual reader based on the participant's age, reading level, history and genre preferences. After reviews are submitted, I use them to help determine stock, displays, and promotions; to gauge interest in genres, authors and various formats; and to communicate with publishers on early feedback.  And the review program helps other shoppers make better decisions, especially when buying books as gifts, by posting the reviews in store, online, and in newsletters.

The Reviewer: Jennifer Glick has been a part of the Teen Critic program for over two years.  I have relied heavily on her opinion in my decision-making and find her reviews concise, reliable, helpful and enjoyable. She has helped me discover books I might not have read, and also helped me weed out others I probably shouldn't devote time towards.

The Idea: While my colleagues may call me a spring chicken, I am no longer a teen.  Therefore, the reviews from the teens in our program are essential to balance adult opinions with those of the intended audience.  For this post, I've paired up with Jen to get a more balanced perspective on three young adult novels about werewolves. Yes, teen werewolves.

The Note: These reviews contain spoilers.  Don't say we didn't warn you!

   

Liar
by Justine Larbalestier
Bloomsbury | 9781599903057 | 16.99 | Sept 2009

One of my favorite gals in publicity, Deb Shapiro, from Bloomsbury, got me to read this with her teaser campaign that included a chapter sampler, vague, yet enthusiastic little notes of praise, and of course, the early galley. I jumped in with two feet ready to love what she'd sent. But here's why I didn't.

Micah, the main character and narrator of the book, is a compulsive liar.  I found reading from this perspective endlessly frustrating.  As a reader, I was not able to distinguish between actual people, places, things and events and Micah's revisionist accounts. While this was a unique read, it's not something I felt I would recommend or read again. Mostly because, even though we don't really know Micah's story, the one she tells is that of urban werewolves and their bloody, romantic escapades.

While I suspected teens would be interested in the genre, I had no idea how they would take to the “liar's tale” voice.  Luckily, one of my savvy Teen Critics turned in a review to help balance my own opinion.  Here's her perspective: 

When I first picked up Liar it looked like one of the quickly and shoddily written werewolf novels that the recent Twilight obsession has unleashed, but Liar turned out to be a fantastic surprise.

I absolutely, one-hundred-percent, loved Liar.  The best part about the book is that it follows the life of Micah, a teenage pathological liar who is constantly rewriting her own story.  Thus the reader is never sure which chapters are true, and which convey aspects of a life that Micah wishes was her own.  Halfway through the novel Micah reveals that she is a werewolf, who shifts once a month unless she regularly takes her medication.

This novel is my favorite of the three wolf stories because instead of adding a wolf to an ordinary story, Ms. Larbalestier takes a great story about a liar, and then adds another great story about a werewolf. 

Wow! It''s a good thing I'm not the buyer at a reputable bookstore, huh?  Oh, right. I am. Well then, it's a good thing I have teens who review books for me, huh?

> Justine Larbaleister blogs here and tweets here.

***

Shiver
by Maggie Stiefvatar
Scholastic | 9780545123273 | $8.99 | June 2010

My sales rep and other booksellers really talked this one up early on as “the next Twilight, but with werewolves”.  So I knew it would get some attention and thought I'd give it a read after my recent lack of enthusiasm for Larbalestier's Liar. No dice. While I did enjoy this story a little more, it still fell flat and felt too much like werewolf romance. Which is good in a way, because that is exactly what it is.  Why are these girls dying to be vampires or wolves?  What's wrong with them? Why are so many people loving this story and desperate for it's sequel, Linger, due out in July 2010? For answers to these questions, I turn to my Teen Critics.

Jen hadn't read this one just after Liar, like I did.  I asked her to read this as the idea for this post formulated inside my cynical little head.  Here's what she said:

Shiver is a tale of a doomed romance, as Grace falls in love with a werewolf named Sam who has only a few more months to stay human. Although there are some mystery elements to the novel, the primary focus rests upon whether Sam and Grace are able to keep Sam human. 

The werewolf element made this story unique; instead of being simply a story about two teenagers in love they are a human girl and a wolf boy who are fighting against time and nature to stay together.

Jen thought this one was good, but not great.  While she doesn't have anything negative to say, she certainly wasn't raving about it like she did with Liar.  Therefore, I'd say we came out thinking similarly on this one. A sort of meeting in the middle.

> Maggie Stiefvatar blogs here and tweets here.

***

Claire de Lune
by Christine Johnson
Simon Pulse | 9780670011421 | $16.99 | May 2010

After reading two YA werewolf books, I certainly didn't expect to find myself reading a third this summer.  And then, one day, I got a call from a debut author trying to get her foot in the not-so proverbial door of a brick and mortar bookstore.  After a brief discussion on the possibility of hosting her for a book signing, I, with dread, agreed to read the book and then make a decision on whether we could make this work. I grabbed the galley, took it home, and started reading. 

Much to my surprise and pleasure, I truly enjoyed this one. And before I go on, here's what Jen had to say:

Claire de Lune is the most “traditional” werewolf novel out of the three, in the sense that Claire, the main character, is the werewolf, and she is trying to figure out how to be human and a wolf at the same time.  Claire’s life is further complicated when a rogue wolf begins to terrorize her community, inciting a local scientist to hunt the wolves so that he can attempt to cure them.  The novel gets interesting when Claire falls for the scientist’s son, but is unable to tell him about her true identity.

The mystery of the lone wolf makes you want to keep reading, and the hope for an impossible love keeps the reader entertained during slower scenes.  This book is well crafted and a delight to read – female teen readers who enjoy books about real girls with a splash of fantasy will love this book.

 I was happy to see Jen give nods to three things I couldn't agree with more. They are:

  1. Craftsmanship
  2. Mystery as intrigue
  3. Pleasurable reading

Our opinions diverge when Jen calls this one traditional. I can certainly see how you'd find this one more traditional when comparing this book to the two above, but I found this treatment of werewolves more feminist and enjoyable. Secondly, this one was definitely my favorite on the list, while Jen remained swept away by Liar

> Christine Johnson blogs here and tweets here.

In Summary:

Liar — Read this one if you're looking for a unique voice that will surprise and challenge you.

Shiver — Read this one if you're looking for a star-crossed romance to satisfy your soul.

Claire de Lune — Read this one if you're looking for a well-crafted, mysterious teen novel for the simple pleasure of reading a good story.

Moreover:  I can't wait until Twilight is no longer the starting off point for discussing YA novels such as these three books. It reminds me of the days when Harry Potter was the reference point for all middle-grade fantasy.  That moment seems to have passed. This, too, shall pass. 

In the meantime, I will keep encouraging teens to give all of us in the book world feedback.  I will gather their opinions, introduce them to new materials, and filter all of that through to you.  When you visit 57th Street Books, look for the kid and teen reviews and only after that should you ask me what I think about a particular book or genre.

– Angela Sherrill
57th Street Books 

[Editor's Note: As Angela alludes in her post, Claire de Lune author Christine Johnson will be appearing at 57th Street Books in July.  For more information, head on over to the Kids' Books page at the 57th Street Books site.]

57th Street Books' Angela Sherrill picks 3 little old ladies.

I'm happy to welcome a new set of picks from 57th Street Books' children's buyer and bookseller (and my3books' contributing editor) Angela Sherrill.

  

Three Little Old Ladies 

Over the years, I've been asked for books on many subjects.  One memorable topic I researched and gathered books for was for a local organization who specialized in working with children whose parents, for whatever reason, were not their primary caregiver. Instead, these children were cared for by elderly grandparents.  The organization was in need of books that:

  1. Represented the elderly in a positive light
  2. Showed healthy relationships between young people and the elderly and
  3. Books in which children with this family structure could find comfortable and understanding characters. 

A year or so after working on this project, a display idea started to form:  I should do a display featuring some of these wonderful elderly characters that appear in children's literature. Last week, I watched the Disney/Pixar movie UP, in which the main characters are aged, have a full back story, and relate humorously with the younger characters.  After thoroughly enjoying the movie, I decided now was, indeed, the time to tell you about my 3 favorite “little old lady” picture books. Why wait?  They aren't getting any younger, and in publishing, their fate may be the often unforgiving status: Out of Print.

This Little Old Lady Eats Socks 

Martha Moth Makes Socks
written & illustrated by Cambria Evans
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | 9780618557455 | $16 | Apr 2006

One could argue that Martha, may in fact, not be a little old lady.  The first objection would be the word little.  Martha is a moth of some size. Second, she has neither gray/white hair or is described as a particular age. But c'mon! Her friends are named Flora and Flit. She appears to live alone. She wears an oversized coat, and carries a purse AND umbrella with her when she goes out.  If you're not convinced, read it for yourself.  I recommend you do so, anyway, because this is a truly delightful picture book.

Martha is a nice lady moth who has a bit of a hunger. Because she is a moth, she finds fabrics and dust most palatable.  When she discovers she is out of both (fabric and dust), she heads to the store to pick up more before her birthday guests arrive. Martha ends up sampling a bit more of these delicious treats while preparing dinner (what home cook can't relate to that?) and ends up with little more than a few itchy socks to serve her friends.  But, don't worry. All is well that ends well.

After reading this book I wanted to be or befriend Martha and her buggy pals.  This book makes a great gift for home cooks and foodies, too.  Share it with friends young and old and delight in Evans' illustrations of Martha Moth and her birthday misadventure.

***

This Little Old Lady Takes Baths 

Estelle Takes a Bath
written by Jill Esbaum
illustrated by Mary Newell DePalma
Henry Holt | 9780805077413 | $16.95 | Oct 2006 

Right away, I fell in love with Estelle and her cozy little home.  She sips green tea, does crossword puzzles, has rhinestone cat-eye glasses, striped galoshes, a shower cap, candle sconces, and froggy wall paper.  If you don't fall for the illustrations at first sight, you will when you read the story.

One snow-storming day, Estelle is unwittingly followed back inside her house by a mouse. She makes tea and hops into a nice warm bath.  The mouse, drawn by the scent of her peppermint bubbles, climbs the tub in an unintentionally frightful greeting.  Estelle screams and gallivants about trying to catch the mouse—all in the buff! When the mouse falls into the bath and Estelle realizes he can't swim, her sympathy swells and the unwanted guest ends up sharing her bubbles.

The text has a bouncing rhyme that engages children during story times and multiple retellings.  The illustrations are perfect. And, while I've received the rare complaint or two about Estelle's naked bum, I have to say the sight of this particular little old lady's heiney warms my heart.

***

This Little Old Lady Gets a Pet

Peanut
written & Illustrated by Linas Alsenas
Scholastic Books | 9780439779807 | $16.99 | Aug 2007 

Everything about Alsenas' little old lady book is wonderful.  Just to be fair, I'm a sucker for colored pencil on white background.  Something about the contrast just says "classic picture book" to me.  I find myself drawn to the fun, simple drawings of Felicia Bond's mice, Olivier Dunrea's geese, and Alsenas' simple, clean pictures enhance the story with humor and joy. We share this fun book with pet owners of all ages.

Mildred is most definitely a little old lady.  Her gray hair is pulled away from her face and her clothing and handbags are blasts from the past. What makes this little old lady special, and the story such a funny one, is her failing eyesight.  Mildred meets what she assumes is a lost puppy in the park, but what the images tell us is a small elephant.  Mildred names the puppy Peanut, and they get along well.  When Mildred is confronted by Peanut's true home and owner, she returns him despite her own heartbreak and loneliness.  

There's lots of laughs in this book and this little old lady with wonderful intentions and terrible vision will win you over in the first few pages.  The plus for dog owners is a full spread of humans who look strikingly and hilariously like their four-legged friends.  Don't miss it. It's a hoot!

The Final Word: 

Share one of these picture books where the main character is a little old lady and bring joy to all ages.

 

Angela K Sherrill
57th Street Books, Chicago
kidsboooks@semcoop.com