(This is the newest BookNotes, an email newsletter I send out to friends, family and colleagues. Included are book reviews and information about the haps at Third Place Books, the bookstore where I work.)
A couple of Fridays ago we had 100 degree weather, broke records for length and depth of heat. The Blue Angels were practicing over the city and the grass smelled like dust. I sat outside and watched the air show as they flew over my house, eating peaches and cherries, drinking water and lemon juice. The smell of lemons lingered on my fingers, making the fruit sparkle with each bite. There was little noise after the unearthly roar of the jets passed; the birds were hiding and I-90 was closed so there was no traffic. We had someone else’s summer for five days!
The season seems to be turning already: the maple tree leaves are yellowing and there is a rill of dry leaves as they are scooted along the driveway by the little breezes. It is wet and I am going to wear a sweater today! It is a day to remember when we get into that last bit of summer that comes so suddenly at the beginning of fall.
And what does this time of year remind us of? Going back to school! New boxes of crayons and the smell of pencils, backpacks clean of unknown sticky patches, little crowds of teenagers whose perfumes battle for dominance. And! Invitations to Teacher Nights! As many of the readers of this email are teachers or librarians, I am inviting you to Lake Forest Park to join us at Third Place Books’ Teacher Appreciation Night on Tuesday, September 8, from 5-7 pm. There will be giveaways, booklists, knowledgeable staff people to question, and an author! A real live author! Phillip Done, the author of Close Encounters of the Third Grade Kind: Thoughts on Teacherhood, will be reading from and discussing his book at 7.
After the BookNotes you will find a list of some of the upcoming Third Place Books children’s book events.
Alphabeasties: And Other Amazing Types, by Sharon Werner and Sarah Nelson, really is kind of amazing! Alphabeasties is an alphabet book of a different stripe; some of the stripes may be designed in Garamond Bold or Times New Roman, but they are stripes.
This is a book that will appeal to anyone who likes books and book design, anyone who feels that the typeface used in a story can influence the way you read, and anyone who likes to collect alphabet books. The illustrations all use different kinds of typeface to design the animal and its surroundings, so “tiger” has a specific kind of type to make up its body, with different typefaces to make up the grass or the trees or the clouds. It’s really cool. But, the thing I like best is the description of the typefaces in the back of the book! The other thing that’s really great about the book is that it shows uppercase and lowercase letters together, they are different sizes, and they have long As and short As, hard Gs and soft Gs side by side. This allows kids who are just getting ready to read to see that a letter is a letter is a letter, that because just because it looks different and may sound different it isn’t. This would be a really good book to design a lesson plan around.
All ages. Blue Apple Books. Hardcover, $19.99. Available now.
Richard Peck’s new book, A Season of Gifts, features Grandma Dowdel, the eccentric grandma who stars in A Year Down Yonder and A Long Way from Chicago, will be available in September, perfect for the new school year!
It is 1958 and a new preacher’s family has moved in next door to Grandma Dowdel. A very poor family, new to the ministry, they have a rundown church that doesn’t even have windows. It needs a lot of help and so do they. Bob, our 11 year-old narrator, has a great view of his family and the woman next door whose daily oddities both fascinate and frighten him.
Grandma Dowdel is a woman who believes in being self-sufficient and thrifty. She raises all kinds of produce, isn’t afraid to protect her property from bullies and toughs, and is gruff in her affections. She also knows that sometimes you have to sidle up to a person and their problems so they don’t run away. I absolutely love Richard Peck’s stories about Grandma Dowdel and A Season of Gifts is so good. Funny and poignant, it is a little slice of small town, mid-century life, a time just as television is becoming a normality, but pumpkins are still picked in patches, some people still have outhouses, and the entire town knows who you are and what you did, forever, as long as memory survives.
9 and older. Dial Books. Hardcover, $16.99. Available September, ’09.
I just finished reading Jonathan Stroud’s newest book, Heroes of the Valley, and it was GOOD! You may remember that Jonathan is the author of the Bartimaeus Trilogy, a series of books about a boy and the djinn he summons and tries to control.
Heroes of the Valley is a story filled with legends and a boy whose life is changed by the legends he grows up on. The setting feels a little Swedish, a little Norwegian, maybe, olden-times, fireside storytelling of the giants who founded the valley and protect it from the monsters who dwell outside the cairn lines. Halli Sveinsson is the youngest son of the house of Svein and a troublemaker. When his antics finally push the edge and cause much more trouble than he expected, he and his friend Aud, the daughter of a neighboring house, must find a way to fix it.
Epic quests, a great deal of humor, and some of the worst monsters you can imagine make for a really compelling read. While Halli may be the main character of the book, Aud is one of those strong, female characters we love so much. She is Halli’s friend and foil, adventurous and strong, and I am hoping for more about her in the next book (I am really hoping for a next book!).
Great for ages 11 and up. Hyperion. Hardcover, $17.95. Available now.
AND I just finished up the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare! The books are City of Bones, City of Ashes, and City of Glass and are based in both the mundane world (the one most of us live in) and a world surrounding us filled with Shadowhunters, angels, fairies, vampires and werewolves.
Our main character, Clary, occupies both of these worlds, often with dire consequences. Clary is a human girl, as far as she knows, with the ability to see and hear those not-quite-human beings that surround her. This ability can be detrimental both to her health and to the health of others. When Clary becomes involved, quite by accident, in a non-human affair, those beings become very interested in the fact of her existence and her life as it was before is shattered.
The books are exciting and romantic, and there is a lot going on in them. Clary is friends with a boy who becomes a vampire, she is in love with a boy who is Shadowhunter, some of their friends are werewolves, and all of this is complicated by the fact that none of these supernaturals are comfortable with each other's existence, but they are all bound by Clary and her needs. Ooh…they’re good! You are all so lucky because you have all three to read at once, you won’t have to wait like the rest of us did! Except! I just heard that there is going to be a fourth book! There is more story to tell. I hate to use this tag-line but if you know any Twilight fans, they will devour these books, too.
Ages 14 and up. Simon and Schuster. The earlier books are available in paper. City of Glass is hardcover, $17.99. Available now.
Emperors of the Ice, by Richard Farr, is an amazing book about Robert Scott’s expedition to the Antarctic. One of the men on the trip, Apsley George Benet Cherry-Garrard (Cherry to his friends), took extensive notes and wrote of his experiences when he returned to civilization.
Cherry was not a professional adventurer or scientist but he was fascinated by his Uncle’s stories of the Emperor penguins he found on Scott’s last trip. His uncle convinced Scott that Cherry would be an excellent crew member and he was asked to be a part of this ill-fated expedition.
Absolutely riveting, Emperors of the Ice is one of those books you cannot put down, even though you know how it’s going to end. Cherry’s descriptions of the hardships the men and animals endure are sometimes difficult to read as, in hindsight, we know what should or could have been done to keep them safe.
I started this book in bed and then found myself reading it aloud to my husband because I had to share it with someone, right then! He read it when I was done and we have both enjoyed talking about what it meant to us.
If you have boys (and men) who are looking for a great survival/adventure story, one with great humor and devastating sadness, then this is the book for you. It is filled with maps, a glossary, an immense bibliography, a chapter on what the men on the trip did when they got home, and, one of the hardest parts to read, the final letters to loved ones when the men knew they were going to die. This is a grand homage to the people who have gone before us to further our knowledge of the unknown, to those who further our knowledge of science for the sheer joy of discovery.
Ages 12 and up. Farrar Strauss and Giroux. Hardcover, $19.95. Available now.
Upcoming Kid’s Book Events at Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park
There are so many great things happening at this store, I just had to let you know:
Monday, September 14, 7 pm: Tony Diterlizzi and Holly Black, authors of the Spiderwick Chronicles, are coming to present their next volume, Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles 3: The Wyrm King.
Tuesday, September 22, 7pm: John Grogan, the author of Marley and Me has written Marley Goes to School, a picture book for children ages 4 and up.
Tuesday, September 22, 5:30: We have scheduled a “meet and greet” with Michelle Zink, the author of Prophecy of the Sisters. This is a chance to meet the author, get a book signed, ask a couple of questions, nothing too formal so don’t be shy, come and visit with us. This book is appropriate for ages 12 and up.
Thursday, September 24, 5:30: This event is a meet and greet with Gitty Daneshvari, the author of School of Fear, another chance to drop by and meet someone who may soon be topping all the bestseller lists! The book is good (and funny) for kids 10 and older.
Saturday, September 26, 10 – 12: Wendy Wahman, the author of Don’t Lick the Dog will be helping us celebrate Group Health READ Day.
Sunday, October 4, 12-1: Come and meet Kate DiCamillo and get a copy of her new book, The Magician’s Elephant, signed. This is not a formal signing where she will be speaking to an audience and then signing books. Kate is stopping by to sign books and will chat with those who would like to get one. We are thrilled to be able to offer this moment with her to you and hope you can come.
Teacher stuff: We have authors available for schools and an email list for educators. If you would like to find out more information about what we do for educators, email Cheryl at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For those of you with more (ahem) mature tastes: Diana Gabaldon, Richard Bach, Diane Ackerman, Alton Brown, P. C. Cast, Barbara Kingsolver….We have a list of authors for grown ups you won’t believe. Check the store website (www.thirdplacebooks.com) or call (206-366-3333) to get the information emailed to you.