BookNotes, September ‘11
It’s that time again, the rainy season is coming, kids are on their way back to school (eventually!) the smell of pencils and crayons surround the youngest children, backpacks like turtle shells pull them slightly off balance. Some of that weight must be a favorite book, tucked in at the last minute, like a grown-up blankie or stuffed animal; a touchstone to all that is familiar and home. Books do that: remind you of places and people you love. Sometimes you don’t even need to open the book, just touch the cover, feel the jacket, and there’s an immediate connection to that world.
To celebrate the beginning of this new school year, I will share some of my favorite back to school books with you.
My Name is Elizabeth! by Annika Dunklee, is a retro-looking story about a girl whose name is Elizabeth! Not Lizzy, or Beth and where did BETSY come from! The art, strong black lines, orange, blue, some white for space, is the perfect palette for the vigor Elizabeth gives her argument for why she must be called Elizabeth. Accompanied by a duck through her daily ventures, she confronts grandpa, crossing guards and various other neighborhood characters until they all understand how important it is to own one’s own name. She is willing to give her baby brother a little slack, for now, though: he can only say “Wizabef”. The art and the text are equally strong and many children will be able to identify with our heroine in her quest for self. Age 4 and up. (Kids Can Press. $14.95. Available now.)
Cinderella Smith, by local author Stephanie Barden is a cute, funny story about a little girl who cannot keep both shoes on her feet. Cinderella is a happy girl, with a really good friend who is happy to help her out when she loses the one ruby red tap shoe she needs to be the Pumpkin Blossom Fairy at the fall recital. But Cinderella’s problems don’t end there: She makes a new friend who needs advice about how to deal with stepsisters and a stepmom. Unfortunately, Cinderella has misled Erin; she doesn’t have sisters, step or other. Now what? Cinderella Smith is a charming book, filled with angst about pierced ears and cell phones, for the 8-12 group, especially good for the second and third graders who are reading on their own and looking for something a little more toothsome. (HarperCollins. $14.99. Available now.)
Eight Keys, by Suzanne Lafleur, captures perfectly how difficult middle school can be. This is the story of Elise and Franklin, best friends forever, and how one day can change everything. In middle school, you’re not supposed to play or be friends with boys, and there are bullies who will take full advantage of all of this. Elise is bullied by her locker partner every day after she finds out that Elise still plays with Franklin. A bad beginning turns to full blown daily dread about going to school as she tries to become who she thinks she should be and gives up Franklin and his friendship. The only thing she looks forward to is her 12th birthday; surely something good will come from finally being 12.
The eight keys referenced in the title are gifts from her long dead father, 8 keys that open 8 different doors that fill in the blanks in her life and give her a skeleton to build a future self on, rooms that show her that she will be a fine adult.
Trying to wrangle your way into those middle school days and years is hard enough without a manual. It’s good to have a book like this out there so kids won’t think they are all alone in this world. It would make a really good book for the first week of school, lots of discussion points on how to deal with bullies, how to talk to friends, that everyone will go through many of the things in this book. Ages 9 and up. (Wendy Lamb Books. $16.99. Available now.)
Warp Speed, by Lisa Yee, is one of a small set of companion novels that started with Millicent Min, Girl Genius and it is a great book for starting a new year, too. Filled with nerds, bullies, AV class, and discussions of what's better: original Star Trek, Star Wars, or Batman, Warp Speed is the story of Marley, invisible to everyone except his AV buddies and the bullies who hunt him down.
The angst and confusion about being a teenager in seventh grade was very well portrayed and the characters were great, realistic, and I loved how philosophical they are about their lives at this time. I loved the relationships between the friends and I especially appreciate Marley’s relationship with his family. They treat each other with respect, something that isn’t often written in YA novels. I really enjoyed seeing the characters from the other three books appear in Warp Speed, making the entire series fuller. I think I need to read them all again, now, to see if the characters are tucked into the other stories.
It’s a funny, poignant book and boys will really like this one. Ages 11 and up. (Arthur Levine Books. $16.99. Available now.) (The rest of the books in this series are: Millicent Min, Girl Genius, Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time, and So Totally Emily Ebers. All in paperback.)
Well, I’d better get this off to you all before the Halloween issue comes out! Let me know if you have any questions about these titles, or others; I’d be happy to help.
Third Place Books has a ton, no, really! a TON of authors for children and teens coming to town in October. Some of these authors need schools to visit, some are available as in-store field trips, most are going to be in the store to talk about their newest books, and they are all amazing storytellers. Give me a call or email me if you have an interest in hosting an author in your school or if you would like to know more about the field trips. Let me know, too, if you have students who need extra credit for English classes or if they would like to interview an author for a paper. I’ll see what we can do. (See the schedule at thirdplacebooks.com; phone me at 206-366-3314; email me at rkirkpatrick@thirdplacebooks. com.)
I will post this newsletter on my blog (http://www.notesfromthebedsidetable.blogspot.com) so you can see covers.
Alright, then. Let’s go out and have a great year!
PS: TPB’s Teacher Night is October 5, 5-7 pm. Authors, publisher’s reps, swag, refreshments. Let me know if you need more info.