Thursday, April 30, 2009

SLJ BoB: Abraham & Mary don't survive the Games

The Hunger Games continues to take no prisoners. Only one can survive...and HG is doing everything in its power to make sure it is the sole survivor. Goodbye, Abraham and Mary! We enjoyed getting to know both of you better!

Who would have thought that Judge Chris Crutcher could be so heartless as to send the Lincolns packing. Have you no shame, sir?

But despite reading HG kicking & screaming ( I don’t read fantasy. With the exception of Cormac McCarty’s The Road, I don’t read “After the fall” literature either. So I opened The Hunger Games cursing School Library Journal for asking me to participate in the Battle of the Books and cursing my editor for telling me I should do it ), HG won for one simple reason.

No, the Everdeen Sisters did not show up at his house and threaten him. Simply put, HG "was just a hell of a yarn."

This leaves Lois Lowry in the position of deciding between Octavian and Katniss. I, for one, cannot wait! One raised in a literary tradition; the other raised in survival. Both outsiders in their world; both fighting for life; both suffering under governments where they have no voice.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Authors In New Jersey

For those of you who live in or near New Jersey:

The NJ Statewide Children's and Teen Author Conference will be held on Friday, May 8, 2009 from 9:30 am until 4 pm at the Woodbridge Public Library. Registration is due tomorrow BUT THERE IS STILL ROOM; the registration form and other contact information is located here (it's a PDF).

Cost: $30.00 if you are a member of NJLA or NJASL; $45 if you are not; and $15 if you are a student. That includes not only the all day event, but also a light breakfast and lunch. If you're a teacher, yes, you can get CE credits.

The authors:

Laura Ruby; Marc Tyler Nobleman; Peter Brown; Lisa Greenwald; and Benedict Carey. Copies of their books will be available for purchase and to have signed.

Cross posted at Pop Goes the Library.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

SE Hinton & Fanfiction

At the LA Times Jacket Copy blog, Cecil Castellucci reports on S.E. Hinton's appearance with Jane Smiley at the LA Book Festival.

Hinton read from her new book, Some of Tim's Stories.

The best part? Hinton reveals she writes fanfiction. For her own stories. Quote: Despite fans begging over the years for a sequel to "The Outsiders," there won’t be one, although she cheekily claimed that she sometimes writes fan fiction and that the best on S.E. Hinton fan fiction sites is hers. “Pony Boy learns a lot in what happened in that week, and it changed the way he thought.”

Hinton also talked about Hawkes Harbor; which reads very much like a fan fiction inspired by Dark Shadows. And some sources say it began as an official Dark Shadows novel. But I'm guessing that wasn't mentioned Hinton's talk.

Jane Smiley and Hinton also discussed adults writing for YA: The conversation wrapped on a strange note, when Smiley said that books written by adults for young adults were a kind of propaganda. It wasn't clear what it was propaganda for. Hinton seemed to agree and to imply that there was an optimism of youth that could not be recaptured by adults in a genuine way.

Castellucci notes, Does this mean that both Smiley and Hinton think that only young people can write authentic teen voices or authentic teen books? I don’t believe that, and I suspect that they don't, either. In the end, it doesn’t matter; when it comes to great classic YA novels, "The Outsiders" is a crown jewel.

I am curious about the "propaganda" Smiley referenced (and, of course, want to know what specific books she means.) And it sounds like maybe Hinton didn't know what the hell Smiley meant, either. I think it's rather simplistic to think that only teens can write "authentic teen voices or authentic teen books."

I wonder if teen authors -- authors first published as teens -- suffer from some of the same things as teen actors (with less public meltdowns). That is, being stuck in a role that they outgrow. Teen authors, especially today, get a little more attention and celebrity because of their age; how often do the jacket photos age and grow with the author?

Teen authors' first books were about teens because they were teens; there is no reason to continue to write teen books just because that is where they began. As people and authors, they will grow and change; and like Gordon Korman, may continue to write books for young readers and teens. As authors, their talent may be wonderfully capturing the age they are at or have lived through, so no, they cannot return to writing teen literature. But other authors have the talent and skill to capture the teen years, no matter their own age. It's a matter of talent, skill, interests; it's not a matter of propaganda, and one set of books is not less (or more) than another.

Edited to add: For a different take, read Wendy Werris's report at Publisher's Weekly.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Anderson's Book About Slavery Wins!

Anderson's Book About Slavery Wins!

Which, sadly, means that Anderson's Book About Slavery Loses.

Judge Linda Sue Park shares an interesting opinion about bathroom reading and sticky stories. No, I'm so not kidding.

One of the reasons I like blog discussions of books is because people go into such detail as to why, personally, they like the book. It's one reason why a blog review isn't quite the same as a journal review. And it's easily one of the reasons I like the BoB decisions; authors sharing, intimately, what makes a story work for them as a reader.

Judge Park says, "I am the most selfish of readers. The implicit question behind all of my reading is, What’s in it for me?" An instant classic quote.

Oh, this round has two authors? Named Anderson? Writing about slavery? You want to know which book actually won?

The one with the Revolutionary War setting.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Harper's Island

Harper's Island, CBS, Thursday 10:00 pm. Full episodes available at the CBS website. Limited series (total: 13 episodes).

The Plot:

Seven years ago, there was a string of murders on isolated Harper's Island; John Wakefield was accused; killed by the Sheriff; and the survivors left to pick up the pieces.

Henry Dunn and Trish Wellington both spent summers on the island, he working, she as a rich tourist; and now that they are getting married, it seems perfect to get married back at Harper's Island. To put the past behind them.

Two episodes in... and the murders keep piling up. Now, I don't want to give too much away. CBS has the episodes available to view online, so new viewers can quickly catch up.

The Good:

Harper's Island is a delicious mix of murder mystery, suspense, and horror. I like horror; but I don't like gore. Harper's Island provides some nasty murders without turning it into a splatter-fest.

This is a classic English country-house mystery; you know, the ones were all the suspects are staying at the English manor, a murder takes place, so it has to be one of the people... Except here it's an isolated island off the coast of Washington, with locals and wedding guests as both suspects and victims.

If people are dying like flies, why doesn't anyone get the hell off the island? So far, the viewer knows about the murders; no one on screen has found a body, except for one that looks like a suicide. But honestly, if I were attending a friend's wedding and I disappeared, I hope someone would notice.

Harper's Island gives us all the standard characters: good girl, old boyfriend, controlling father, etc. Part of the fun of a show like this is trying to figure out who will be next and who did it and how the next one will die. Could it be X? Where was s/he when the last murder took place? Uh oh, that person is dead, take them off the list.

Also good? This is only thirteen episodes. Which means it is tightly plotted; no meandering, no network inspired sudden changes. It tells a story that is complex -- multiple characters, backstory, interesting relationships, hidden secrets -- a story that could not be told in only a few hours. A story that would suffer if drawn out over multiple seasons. YAY, it will have an ending.

Note to Supernatural fans: it has Bobby. And Original Ruby. What more do you need?

Extra feature: an online companion series, Harper's Globe, that so far is creeping me out much more than Harper's Island.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Along For The Ride

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen. Viking. Publication Date: June 2009. Reviewed from an ARC. Official Website.

The Plot: Auden spends the summer after high school graduation at the beach with her father, stepmother, and new baby half-sister. She discovers things about her father, her family, and herself.

The Good: Dessen delivers again.

Teenage girl? Check.

Discovering who she is? Check.

Realizing the good and bad, flaws and strengths of those around her? Check.

Making new friends of both sexes? Check.

Love interest? Check.

Did I mention it's at the beach?

While their is a romance (and I would confidently hand this to anyone looking for a love story), it's not a classic love story. The real story is the classic YA one -- coming of age. Auden has always lived under the shadow of her mother, being "too grown up" as a way to deal with her parents' divorce. Visiting her father and seeing him in a new light, while being out of the influence of her strong mother, gives her a chance to find out who she is and what she wants.

The love interest begins as a friend -- and the love is awkward, hesitant, and shaky. Auden has hidden herself away in books and school work, and love, friendship, and relationships don't come easy to her. Auden may be a bit more like the readers of Dessen's books, than past main characters (Lock and Key has uberdrama, Just Listen has the pretty model girl, etc.)

It wouldn't be a Dessen book without some mentions of her other books: here, Auden briefly attended the private school in Lock and Key; the jewelry from Lock and Key is also mentioned; and the beach town is the one in Keeping the Moon, with a couple of characters making brief appearances. Hey, speaking of the Lock and Key jewelry, Tiffany is making key necklaces!

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Monday, April 27, 2009

SLJ Day of Dialog

Day of Dialog? What is that?

Join School Library Journal for its first Day of Dialog—a free, day-long program where librarians, editors, authors, and vendors meet to discuss the changing world of books, reading, and libraries. This year we’ll investigate whether blogs are changing our reading and buying habits, hear about the next wave in audiobooks for kids (Guys Listen!), and explore the future of books (like 39 Clues) that are leading readers beyond the page and into the digital world.

Blogs! Yay! What blogs/bloggers in particular?

Are bloggers having an impact on what we read, what we add to collections, what we recommend? Here what avid bloggers Liz Burns (A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy), Laura Lutz (Pinot and Prose), Cheryl Klein (Brooklyn Arden), and author Libba Bray have to say about it.

Moderated by Betsy Bird, SLJ blogger and librarian, New York Public Library

Hey, that's you!

Why yes, yes it is.

When and where is this Day of Dialog?

Thursday, May 28th, from 8:30 to 4:30. It's at Dwek Center for Contemporary Culture, Central Library, Brooklyn Public Library, Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, New York.

But, um, Liz, aren't you phobic about urban driving and parking?

Sh! No need to share all the bad stuff about me. But if I'm going to overcome that phobia (or find some way around it), you know it's for a good reason. Forget me (tho, blatant self promotion, I do think the blogging panel is going to be great). There will be audiobook discussions! Authors! Technology changing how we tell story! It's going to be fun, informative, and you will regret not going.

So click through to the full description of the Day and sign up now. And stop back here to let me know you're going!

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Sunday, April 26, 2009

ARCs & Bloggers

ARCs and bloggers.

Everyone is talking about them.

Um, OK, I guess if GalleyCat were to fact-check that statement they way they fact-check the New York Times Kindle2 Article, I would be found to be exaggerating.

For the what is an ARC recap, please read my posts at ForeWord Magazine's Shelf Space blog.

ARCs and bloggers.

I've seen some interesting talk about them recently.

(See, New York Times and Wall Street Journal, how easy it is to be accurate?)

My head is spinning from the comments at Presenting Lenore and Reviewer X. Some stuff is familiar (the emails from publicists and publishers offering reviewer copies when clearly they have not read my blog enough to know if the proposed copy "fits" what I write about); others, not so much (bloggers who just boast about scoring ARCs and then trade them back and forth and never review/discuss the books).

A few scattered thoughts.

ARCS aka "review copies" are for books that will be published sometime in the future (usually within the next six to nine months, but I've seen ARCs up to a year ahead of time.) If you want to review a book that is already published, chances are the ARCs are all gone. Plus, the reason for the ARC -- advance buzz, advance reviews -- is gone because the book is out. Also, with the final version out, why read and review an earlier version that at best has typos and at worst is incomplete? Go to the library to get a copy.

Authors don't make a lot of money. They don't have ARCS (or extra hardcover/paperback copies) of books sitting around, waiting to send to bloggers (or donate to fundraisers or to underfunded school libraries etc.) The postage to send all those requests out could eat up a royalty check -- let alone the cost to them of the actual ARC or book. See, authors only get so many copies of the book itself; after that, they have to pay for them. Am I saying NOT to ask authors? Since bloggers often get emails from authors saying "can I send you a copy," I cannot say "don't ask authors." But with everything -- be realistic, be polite, be understanding.

Bloggers are doing this for free. No, really. I sometimes think that authors or readers don't get the investment of time a blogger makes: maintaining the blog, selecting titles to read, reading the titles, writing posts about those titles, etc. etc. So -- bloggers should NOT have to buy the books they intend to write about on their blogs. There are enough books in a public library that a blogger doesn't have to rely on ARCS, and doesn't have to spend his/her own money.

Bloggers don't need ARCs. No, really. OK, so I do review from ARCs. And I get them from a variety of places. Conferences, such as ALA and BEA. Publishers. Friends. Heck, I could do an entire post on that (and will if there is interest.) But I also review titles from other sources: books I've bought or checked out of the library. One of the good things about blogs as opposed to traditional review sources is our ability to blog about things other than upcoming books.

Both the comments in Presenting Lenore and Reviewer X refer to these mysterious blogs that boast about getting ARCs and trade them but never review. A recent review I did based on an ARC I borrowed from a friend was pretty well received by the author, so a borrowed ARC can fulfill the purpose of an ARC. ARCs being passed back and forth is not a bad thing for the author.

Based on the number of ARCs I get, it would be impossible to review them all. I've frequently considered posting the titles of review copies I have received. Actually, come to think of it, I have done it sometimes, with books I get from conferences. If these comments are talking about things like The Story Siren's vlog "In The Mailbox," I don't get the negativity & snark in the comments. That's just a very clever, entertaining way to share new and upcoming titles with people.

A blogger isn't obligated to review/discuss every ARC/review copy they get. Now, you may argue that an obligation exists because of how one gets an ARC -- but I would respectfully disagree. Why? Well, a book can sound awesome. You request the ARC or respond to the email soliciting the ARC. And then you dislike the book. Maybe don't get beyond the first few chapters. What is your "obligation"? What do you "owe"? Keep in mind I am not talking about the always-ongoing debate about writing reviews that are critical/negative about a book.

That said, c'mon, if you've said "yes" to getting a specific ARC/review copy, they are being sent to you for a reason. To review that book. Personally, I prioritize posting about the ones that are sent to me as the result of "direct contact", and then aim to do a percentage of the ones that get sent unsolicited. (But the hows and whys of what I read versus what I finish versus what I post about is an entire other post).

OK. That's a lot of scattered thoughts. So my final bit on this tl;dr post: while some comments (usually anonymous) talk about these entitled bloggers who are using ARCs to no longer buy books and treat them like the finished product and don't review, etc., much as I clicked through links, all I found were book blogs with interesting discussions and content and I ended up adding a ton of new-to-me blogs to my bloglines account.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Happy Fourth Blog Anniversary To Me

Yes, Dear Readers, it's been four years.

The first post.

It's really amazing to think about the small handful of people who had blogs back then compared to now.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Thursday, April 23, 2009

SLJ BoB: No Kat-Fight For You!

What, you thought I would go with the girl-fight joke instead?

Judge Nancy Werlin read Graceling and The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary; her selection of the non-fiction book means that Graceling will NOT be going up, so their will be no Katniss/Katsa match-up. Put your jello away.

Werlin is the only Round 2 Judge who not only discusses books that did not advance; and gives them high praise; she basically says the other books should have advanced.

THEN, to add the drama, Werlin says her decision was easy-peasy. OK, I made up the easy-peasy part; she actually said: "Those match-ups would have been tough. This one isn’t, even though I must say it’s shamefully unfair to have to compare these two very different books. But it’s like Sherman marching to the sea; it’s like Katsa against Po. There’s no question of the outcome. The Lincolns wins over Graceling."

No question, dear readers. NO QUESTION. Werlin, like Judge Pierce, speaks critically about the books and the writing. (Note to readers and authors: a critical reading of a book, discussing the writing as Werlin does, is NOT a bad review).

Also the good? In talking about The Lincolns, Werlin talks about the writing, not the history: "The material was presented clearly, beautifully, fully, and with respect for the reader’s intelligence and understanding."

What does this mean for next week?

Judge Linda Sue Park, with Octavian and Chains;

Chris Crutcher, with Hunger Games and The Lincolns.

While this is all about individual preferences, it is interesting to observe we have two historical fiction books, a dystopian fantasy, and non-fiction.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy


Haters by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez. Little, Brown. 2006.

A new girl in school. She's a regular kid, thrown into a sea of rich kids. Did I mention she's moved to Orange County, California? She wants to have friends, a cute boy likes her.

Think you've read this before? Have watched it before?

Yes, it's an old concept, but it's one that teens like; it’s about being new, it's about trying to make your way in a new place, it's a look at the lives of the rich that most people don't have outside of magazines and TV shows. Haters takes this old idea of "new kid at a rich school" and makes it fresh. The new girl is Pasquala (Paski) Rumalda Quintana de Archuleta. She's of Mexican descent; and her new school, which is very, very rich, is also very diverse. So diverse that it's not even a big deal; what matters to these kids is not the skin color or where parents came from, but how much money they have. Paski is on one of the lower social rungs not because she's Hispanic but because she lives in an apartment building.

One of the first things Paski does in her new town is to take her mountain bike and attack the streets, sidewalks, hills and mountains. This isn't Miss Marple sightseeing; this is fast and gutsy and sweaty. Chris, the cute, popular boy notices Paski not because she's pretty (which she is) but because of her aggressive riding. It gets better – Jessica, the alpha girl, the Queen B, she who rules the school? Is also an athlete. Being athletic and competitive is valued. Jessica Nguyen isn't just any athlete; she is a champion at motocross. Motocross! How many books have a girl competing at motocross, let alone have that girl be most popular because of it? Being athletic is a part of her Paski's character and the story resolution involves Paski and a motocross event. It's not just a detail about Paski; it's who she is.

As the title indicates, Haters is about the cliques Paski encounters at her new school. It's not Gossip Girl; it's about a girl looking in at the Gossip Girl types and wanting to be their friend. Paski, new in school, popular at her old school, sees the cool kids and wants to go to their parties, hang out with them at school. And, of course, she wants Chris. She's also hiding something; while she's proud of her heritage, her father, and her biking, she's not so proud of something she inherited from her grandmother. Paski is a little bit psychic; something Paski tries to ignore, because it's not exactly something that helps you fit in. She's going to find out it can be dangerous to yourself and others when you try to hide who you are.

The diversity in this book goes beyond who is at the school; it's also about jobs and careers. Jess is the Paris Hilton of her school; and part of her power is not that she's a teen celebrity because of money, looks, or last name; yes, her parents are wealthy, but her attention is earned by her own motocross achievements and related endorsements. (Before I go any further, let me be clear; Jess is also the bad girl. And guess who she is dating? Remember that cute, popular boy who Paski likes?) Even in my beloved Veronica Mars, the rich African Americans are rich because of either sports or hip hop music. These stereotypes are avoided in Haters. Take Paski's father, an artist whose comic strip is going to be turned into a movie (hence the move to the OC.) While not many kids will see themselves in Haters because the school is so ultra rich, they will see that the world is diverse in a way that includes careers.

Before any fifth grade parent gets all excited about this being suitable for their child because it's not a Gossip Girl book but it's in that type of world but with a better role model, please note: this isn't for your child. There is frank talk about sex; Paski is a virgin, but who is having sex is something she and her friends talk about. And did I mention Chris, the cute, cool boy? Trust me; this is for older kids.

This book is a must have for YA sections and high school libraries; it's a counter to the shallowness of the mean girl books and it shows a world of possibility and options for all teens. It's nice to have a Hispanic teen in a book that is not about poverty, prejudice, and economic struggles. But there are some downsides to this book. Triangles can be hard to write, especially when the boy is torn between the good girl (Paski) and the mean girl (Jess), because the worse the mean girl gets, the worse the boy looks for ever having been with her. And let me tell you: Jess gets pretty bad. Jess and friends can be so cruel (hence the title, Haters) that it never quite makes sense why Paski wants to be part of the popular crew.

Originally appeared at The Edge of the Forest, September 2006.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

See Liz B. Sign Her Name

And I do it well. I've had years of practice.

Are you going to the NJLA Conference next week? You have not one, but two, opportunities for the Sophie & Liz B show (the short version and the long version.)

The short version: Sophie Brookover and I sign our book, Pop Goes the Library: Using Pop Culture to Connect With Your Whole Community on Tuesday, from 3:30 to 4:30

The long version: Our presentation Wednesday, from 11:30 to 12:20:

Pop Goes the Library: Public Relations Tips & Tricks to Connect with Your Whole Community "If you buy it, will they come? What do you do with the popular materials your patrons request? Get serious about marketing and promoting your pop culture collections! Learn about internal as well as external marketing, create a PR campaign for local stakeholders, and develop & execute a pop culture advocacy plan to make your collections and programs really POP @ your library!" Sophie Brookover, Eastern Regional High School, Voorhees, NJ; Elizabeth Burns, NJ State Library, Library for the Blind and Handicapped.

See you there!

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

SLJ BoB: Katniss Sinks The Ship

Sometimes the post titles just write themselves.

Judge John Green* considers:The Hunger Games or We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball?

And the winner is....

As if you couldn't guess. The Hunger Games.

Let's turn once more to the fun part, picking apart what the judges say -- and don't say!

Eager writers trying to turn these comments into a guide to creating the Frankenstein's Monster of the perfect book: per Green, make sure your reader has the most fun they've had in years!

Don't you love when authors don't tell everything? And assume you come to their writing with prior knowledge? They don't tell you every. single. thing. That's what Green has done in this review. Note how he makes mention of "its purportedly unoriginal premise." But doesn't mention, say, the other book/film that has the premise. And then, "much has been made of the "issues" raised by the novel" and while Green gives us a couple of those issues, he doesn't say who has been making much. Green is assuming (rightly so for this reader) that the book-crazed readers of SLJ BoB know exactly what he is talking about.

And we do.

New BoB drinking game.
If the judge praises both books? Drink.
If they talk about how you cannot compare two books? Drink.
Drink twice if they also say "apples to oranges"; finish the drink if it's "apples to pineapples."
Anything else?

*Who will be at NJLA next week! Did you get your ticket? Are you going to the lunch? I am!

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

SLJ Bob: Isabelle Cages The Bears

Judge Coe Booth's dilemma: Chains or Tender Morsels?

And the answer is...."As a reader. I want to go on a journey with a character. I want to care about him or her. While Tender Morsels is bold and original and thoroughly memorable, I cared about Isabel. And for that reason, my vote has to go to Chains."

Writers, add that to the list of things your book should be! And as I felt sorry for nobody loving psycho Frankie, I also feel sorry for Liga. I mean, Liga gets completely screwed, doesn't she? It's not her fault she was abused and hid from the world that hurt her. But just like the villagers didn't care about Liga and her father (and c'mon, they had to know!), so, too, does Liga not get the love from Booth.

I picture Frankie and Liga on the sidelines... Frankie plotting "so they won't let me win the BoB...I'll show them...I am secretly sending emails to SLJ right now, pretending to be the Battle Commander...." Meanwhile, Liga is staring in the distance, thinking "I wish I could run away to a safe place with bears....oh yeah RIGHT 'cause that worked so. well. last time."

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Harry, A History

Harry, A History: The True Story of a Boy Wizard, His Fans, and Life Inside the Harry Potter Phenomenon by Melissa Anelli. Simon & Schuster. November 2008. My personal copy. Official Website.

Melissa Anelli (of The Leaky Cauldron) delivers what the title promises: a book about Harry Potter, the fandom that developed around HP, and a fan's life inside that fandom.

Anelli weaves her personal story of HP fandom involvement with the bigger fan picture. As a journalist, her interaction with the fandom is that of a journalist. She began contributing to The Leaky Cauldron website; gets added to staff; and keeps her "news hat" on throughout, fighting for press access to HP events for the website, just like other news sources.

That this is a very personal book is its strength; you can hand this to someone who, well, doesn't get the attraction of any fandom to show the friendships and community that develops. Anelli smartly points out the similarities to the more widely accepted "fandom" more popularly known as sports.

The history of HP fandom is covered; as is specific parts of HP fandom, such as wizard rock, shipping wars, and fanfiction.

As with many things, a strength can be a weakness, and Anelli can only cover so much. For example, she doesn't participate in cosplay, so it gets just a cursory explanation.

Anelli writes primarily for the fandom audience who will recognize names and events. People like me (fans whose fandom participation is reading news and the occasional fanfic) will be intrigued by this whole world -- but may occasionally be confused by the first-name only names (tho most end up eventually explained) and wish that conventions had been given a more detailed explanation. As I said, despite the moments of confusion to those who aren't HP fans or knowledgeable about fandom at all, I would put this in their hands so they could get a glimpse about what all the fuss is about and yes, fandom is "real life", thank you very much.

And what about the HP controversies? Anelli does not address the Lexicon trial at all; but, her book ends with the publication of the last HP book so well before the lawsuits were filed. Steve Vander Ark & his Lexicon are mentioned; as is Cassandra Clare's background in writing fanfiction. Anelli knew she HAD to mention things like these; but takes the high road and doesn't turn this into old gossip.

While I recommend this book, I was also left wanting more. Anelli herself is a major player in HP fandom (a "BNF", or big name fan); and while I liked the "fandom through the eyes of one person" approach, I was left wanting MORE. Specifically, I would love an oral history of HP fandom (like Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk), providing multiple viewpoints and perspectives, is a must-write.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Raising Money for Bridget Zinn

Bridget Zinn is a YA Librarian and YA author who was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year.

Information on Fundraising for Bridget Zinn; both an online auction and a silent auction/raffle to be held in Portland OR.

Please spread the word; they are also still looking for donations for both events. Contact Jone at her blog.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Rosie Flo's Coloring Books Contest

Why, what do we have here?

Not one, not two, but THREE books to be won.

Copies of Rosie Flo's Coloring Book; Rosie Flo's Garden Colouring Book; and Rosie Flo's Animals Coloring Book have been donated by the publisher, Chronicle Books.

Chronicle Books shows once again how to do a coloring book. The pages are thick; there will be no bleeding through of colors. The pages invite markers, paint, water colors, and why yes, even crayons.

The Rosie Flo coloring books are the creation of English artist, Roz Streeten. As she explains here, her daughters inspired this line of coloring books: "The Rosie Flo colouring books evolved through hours of sitting and drawing with my daughters when they were small. . . . Dresses were the most popular items demanded of me and Sophie (now 12) would then do the faces, arms and legs. . . . Sasha (now 8) became obsessed with simply colouring-in.... I was fascinated with how they both maintained such prolonged interest with this way of drawing and felt there must be other like minded girls around."

All there books offer the best of both worlds, then; intricate dresses to be colored in, but blank space for the unlimited imagination of the young (or old) artist.

Want to look inside? The publisher's website offers a "look inside" feature.

Want to win?

OK, here are the rules. Sweet and simple.

The contest runs until next Tuesday, April 28th.

To enter, leave a comment about something coloring-book related. Your favorite coloring book; whether you HAD to stay within the lines or refused to make leaves green; your favorite Crayola crayon color; anything at all.

You have to leave your name (yes, you can use your blogging/commenting name for the comments) and an email address (I'll need a way to get in touch with you.)

I'll draw names at random, and announce the winners on Friday, May 1st.

A final word on just how cool these coloring books are:

They have their own youtube video.

No, I'm serious:

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Monday, April 20, 2009

SLJ BoB: Octavian Sends Twain Home.

Judge Tim Wynne-Jones has to choose between The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves and The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West.


My guess is the Judge selected Octavian because it has the longer title. Now it's time to go play some video games, read books as if they were movies, and twitter.

OK, so for those of you who clicked through and read the whole thing, you've seen what parts of the Judge's opinion grabbed my interest:

The Kingdom on the Waves is dense, grand, epic in terms of its scope and virtue. And yes, it’s a marathon to read, by today’s standards, but that’s why it’s a book, rather than, let’s say a video game or a tweet. Books are what we turn to for the heavy lifting!

Much of what we read nowadays is written, however unconsciously, in the grammar of film. We have come to expect jump cuts and cross cuts, reaction shots, montages and fade-outs. We have incorporated so much of this storytelling technique into contemporary fiction writing that we’re not used to the density of a book like The Kingdom on the Waves.


No doubt about it, Octavian is an impressive work of fiction. But having reread the Judge's opinion a few times, I'm still not sure why the movie/video game/twitter bit is included. Yes, we often want to tell others who don't like a book the way we do, "hey, you're reading it wrong"; but this has an added twist of saying WHY the reader is doing it wrong. Hey, at least the Judge didn't slam TV and blogging! And I love the idea of M.T. Anderson thinking, "I have this great idea and it could be a video game or a book.... video game or a book...".

I cannot wait to see whether Octavian goes against Chains or Tender Morsels in the next round.

BTW, for the first round, I was right for six and wrong for two; and my pick for "ultimate winner" is still in the running.

Now, off to catch up on The Real Housewives of New York City and wonder if I can get my hands on a review copy of Naturally Thin: Unleash Your SkinnyGirl and Free Yourself from a Lifetime of Dieting by Bethenny Frankel.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Peeled Won a Newbery Honor? Really?

The Wall Street Journal's Scary Green Monsters raises good questions about when books veer into propaganda.

Too bad the author is a bit confusing about Joan Bauer: "Joan Bauer's "Peeled" (Putnam, 2008) won a Newbery Honor and hordes of young adult readers with its lively tale of a courageous teenage journalist who manages to outfox corporate interests that are trying to bamboozle a small apple-growing town." I triple checked; Peeled isn't on the list of Newbery Winners and Honors.

Bauer did get a Newbery Honor, but that was in 2001 for Hope Was Here.

Looks like the Wall Street Journal shouldn't have let go their librarian.

Edited to add:

This language is also in the print edition of the WSJ. See this post at Look Out for the Polar Bears for an image.

I'm not sure what the moral of this story is...anyone (especially any woman with child(ren)) can write about children's literature; children's literature doesn't deserve basic fact-checking; or fact-checking is an illusion and the only difference between blogs and main street media is.... um, I can get this answer... they have a print edition?

Edited to add: WSJ Corrects Error

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Teaser: Beautiful Creatures

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. Little Brown. Publication Date January 2010. Reviewed from ARC supplied by publisher. Official Book Website.

I'm trying something new here at Tea Cozy; when the publication date of a book is significantly in the future (say, more than six months) I'm timing the actual post for closer to the pub date combined with an early teaser.

So, what you should know about Beautiful Creatures:

It's a spooky, Gothic, Southern tale, full of atmosphere and description, with suspense, romance, and supernatural elements. Ethan Wate falls for new girl Lena Duchannes. He discovers that not only does she have secrets -- so, too, does his home town and the family and friends he's known all his life. And while the title is Beautiful Creatures, I keep on thinking of it as Dangerous Creatures.

A longer review will be posted closer to the pub date.

Interested in getting an ARC? Victoria Stapleton at Little Brown has some available! Send the email to Littlebrownschool @ and put the title in the subject line.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Sunday, April 19, 2009

SLJ BoB: Katsa Beats Up Animals

Next up in the SLJ Battle of the Books: YA fantasy Graceling moves on, leaving The Underneath behind.

And Tamora Pierce becomes the bravest judge thus far.

No, really. Most judges praise both books; then make their decision.

Pierce flat-out points flaws in The Underneath*: a meandering story line, loss of dramatic tension, a middle-grade book with YA elements. (She does praise the beautiful language.) I'm not saying I agree or disagree with Pierce; I am saluting her, standing on my chair and applauding and cheering, for taking a critical approach to this Battle. I was beginning to feel we'd have too much of a love-fest, and would soon have judges talking about flipping coins.

*What about Rachel Cohn and her statements about Frankie? She calls both books excellent, and phrases almost all of what she says in what she personally likes/doesn't like about Frankie, rather than the book itself; and that the Ship ultimately triumphed because of the artwork.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

SLJ BoB: Lincolns v Nation

Oh, man. Sometimes online humor and sarcasm and trying to be funny just doesn't travel well... hence I decided not to make any really, really bad jokes about how the The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary were like a giant wave, taking down Nation. Or worse.

So, simply, on the last match up of round 1, Lincoln defeats Nation. Tho I'm sure a lot of you had already printed up your newspapers with Nation defeats Lincoln.

So far, two of the Printz Honor Books move forward; and two fall.

In my continued interest in WHY decisions were made, Ann Brashares goes for effort. The Lincolns shows more effort than Nation. What with it being non-fiction and all. A fiction book that doesn't show effort....isn't that usually a good thing? Huh.

You know, if I were an author looking at these decisions for clues to write the bestest book ever, I'd be confused right now.

Your teen self should like should show should break hearts...all while blowing the lid off the genre, feature a scrappy underdog, be scholarly, and let's not forget, shake up our expectations. Oops, I haven't posted on Graceling/Underneath yet. So, that standard, too.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Saturday, April 18, 2009

SLJ Bob: Hunger Games v Porcupine Year

Round One of SLJ BoB continues with The Hunger Gamesbeing selected over The Porcupine Year.

Once again, we have a Judge who clearly loved both books. The Porcupine Year gets high praise: Ellen Wittlinger calls it "a literary classic."

How can The Hunger Games compete with that?

By winning Ellen Wittlinger's heart: not only did she "fall[] in love", but her "heart was torn apart."

Just like it's difficult to argue with Judge Teen Rachel Cohn, it's also hard to argue when the decision is based on the impact a book has on the reader.

Tho one could always argue about whether one's emotional reaction to a book is the best test for a book. But I think any argument against Hunger Games would result in the girls who made the Now or Never YouTube video coming after me.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Friday, April 17, 2009

SLJ Bob: Frankie Misses the Ship.

And in another SLJ BoB upset, We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball triumphs over The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.

Oh Frankie, Frankie, Frankie. Nobody loves you. I'm beginning to think that even if the Bassetts had been open to girls, you wouldn't have been asked to join.



Maybe Bod does? Now that's an interesting fanfiction idea…..

Part of why this whole Battle is fun, fun, fun, is that any one of the original sixteen books would make a great winner. Seriously. Which leaves us not saying, "OMG a book was robbed" but rather looking at the whys... why did one Judge decide one thing? How different are the standards being used by the different Judges?

Judge Rachel Cohn states her criteria for her decision up front: "what young readers actually enjoy reading." And goes with We Are the Ship. Because Cohn, as a teen, would have preferred that book. Which shocks all guessers who were thinking, hm, Cohn writes books about teenage girls for teenage girls!

Now, given my defense of Frankie during the Tournament of Books, I bet you all just sat down with your popcorn and put your feet up, expecting me to go to town on this one. Does whether or not ones loves the main character of a book means anything about how well written the book is? Is a book about kids at a prep school automatically less than other books with "more serious" subject matters? Does it change when the main character herself is not the typical preppie, because of her gender and religion? Etc.

Cohn makes it a bit hard for one to counter her arguments by discussing these things; unless, of course, you KNEW teen Rachel and are right now emailing her about her teen reading habits (OMG Rachel you totally would/would not have read x y or z), you really cannot argue with those reading preferences. Teen Rachel wants not just nonfiction, but nonfiction about sports; about the Negro League; with a folksy, kind narrator; and with wonderful artwork. We are the Ship delivers all that.

Cohn, like the other judges, is up front and honest and transparent about why she chose the book she did. We can (and will!) agree or disagree with the standard she used.

And all I can think of is Sarah Jessica Parker in The Family Stone, giving voice to all of Frankie's insecurities and weaknesses, unattractive yet honest: "Isn't there anybody that loves me?"

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Teens and Senior Citizens

In D.L. Garfinkle's Storky: How I Lost My Nickname and Won the Girl, narrator Michael Pomerantz befriends a senior citizen, Duke, at a local nursing home. Cyd Charisse, the main character in Rachel Cohn's Gingerbread and its sequel, Shrimp, visits an elderly lady at a nursing home. The winner of this year's Newbery Award, Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins, features Debbie, who helps out and becomes friends with a neighbor who is a senior citizen. Ashley, the main character of Laurie Halse Anderson's Prom, helps look after her next door neighbor's grandmother. When Zoe looks for A Room on Lorelei Street (by Mary Pearson), her landlady is a senior citizen. Valerie Hobbs's Defiance has an eleven year old who becomes friends with a neighbor in her 90s. In Deb Caletti's Honey, Baby, Sweetheart, Ruby is forced to join her mother's book group – which is made up of senior citizens. Gail Gauthier's Saving the Planet and Stuff features Michael, who is spending the summer with friends (and contemporaries) of his grandparents.

Suzi Steffen, in a December 5, 2005 post on her blog Words, words, words, wondered, "what is UP with the whole nursing home trope? Seems to be a common thing now. Do YA writers think, 'oh, my character isn't very deep; perhaps as a teen, s/he needs to connect with an older person as her/his parent's aren't providing enough guidance? Not saying that I wouldn't do it; just wondering if that's why all of the nursing home characters keep appearing."

While the older women in Prom and Criss Cross are not in nursing homes, they – like the blind neighbor in Defiance – are crossing the line from self-reliance to dependence on others. Mrs. Bruning in Criss Cross requires emergency medical aid; the neighbor in Prom displays increasingly erratic behavior.

As Suzi said, older adults in teen books give guidance to teens. Both Michael in Storky and Cyd in Gingerbread/Shrimp benefit significantly from the insight, compassion, empathy and understanding given by the adults they encounter. Real relationships and friendships are made.

Another reason for teen/senior interaction may be that both are facing challenges to independence. Teens, caught between childhood and adulthood, dream of independence and autonomy. Ashley (Prom) and Zoe (A Room On Lorelei Street) want to move out of their parent's homes; Ruby (Honey, Baby, Sweetheart) seeks freedom thru a boy. On the other end of the spectrum, the seniors in these books are losing their independence. One of the members of the book group in Honey, Baby, Sweetheart wants to reunite with a long-lost love, and has to be practically kidnapped to make that happen because the woman's children want to prevent the reunion. Teens and seniors become allies in wanting independence and not being babied.

An additional factor in each of these books is that the teen and older person are not related. The senior may be a neighbor, a friend of the family, someone met at a nursing home – but never a grandparent or other relation. Chris Barton, whose first book, The Day-Glo Brothers, is due in 2009, notes that "grandparents and great-grandparents are indeed living longer, but since World War II Americans are more mobile than they used to be and more likely to spend their adulthood (and thus their kids' childhood) some distance from where previous generations live(d)."

While this generation of teens is more likely to have all grandparents living, it's also more likely that these grandparents don't live near their grandchildren. Parents and grandparents relocate because of career, family, personal and economic reason, retirement. Whatever the reason, the generation who is most likely to have living grandparents is least likely to be living near them.
Grandparents, even if physically close, are not necessarily wise, loving, and other "grandparent" stereotypes. In both A Room on Lorelei Street and Storky, the grandmothers are critical and non-supportive. Teens demand honesty, and many are fully aware that just as parents can let you down, so too can grandparents.

Parents do their best for their children, but with normal teen/parent rebellion and conflict, neither parents nor teens are always able to really listen to each other. But someone who isn't related, who comes to the teen fresh, without preconceptions, expectations, or history, can offer guidance that a teen will listen to, and will also listen – as with Cyd in Gingerbread – without judging. This two-way communication serves both teen and older adult.

D.L. Garfinkle explains that "I wish I could tell you why I created Duke, the old man in the nursing home in Storky. He just appeared. It really wasn't a conscious decision on my part." As Storky was revised, "my agent suggested using him to create a 'throughline' character for Mike to learn from to show Mike's growth."

But why not make Duke a grandparent? "When a character is not related, there is more chance for the protagonist to have one-on-one time with the character to pour his heart out to him about family problems and other problems."

As Garfinkle points out, a person who is not related to the main character is impartial. This "blank slate" character can then help the teen become his or her "true self." In A Room On Lorelei Street, Zoe's own grandmother is too concerned with the welfare of her own daughter (Zoe's troubled mother), so cannot be there for Zoe in the same way as Opal, Zoe's landlady. Opal looks at Zoe and sees a good kid with heart and potential, while others see a teenage girl who has made wrong choices, including abandoning her mother.

Mary Pearson, who has a work in progress set in a nursing home, notes that sharing wisdom is a two-way street for teenagers and seniors. "Yes, some wisdom comes from the older folks, but some comes from the teens too in regard to how the older folks are treated." She agrees that older folks and teens are "on the two ends of not being able to make decisions about their own lives." Pearson also points out that, from a writer's perspective, if the characters are unrelated and are not "emotionally invested" with each other, new relationships may develop. "Developing relationships is the fun part of writing."

Whatever the reasons, commonalities, shared wisdom, blank slate, senior citizens are vibrant, memorable characters in today's teen literature.

Note: this article was inspired by my December 5, 2005 posting "Teens & Nursing Homes" at A Chair, A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy. The quotes came from comments made to that posting by Chris Barton, D.L. Garfinkle, Mary Pearson and Suzi Steffen. The author is grateful that all four permitted themselves to be quoted for this article.

Originally appeared in the March 2006 issue of The Edge of the Forest.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy