Sloth shout out!!!

Have you seen the list of Celebrity’s book picks at the NEA yet? (These are books that celebrities love, not books they wrote.)
Lots of famous classics on the list — Hillary Clinton likes Goodnight  Moon, Chevy Chase likes Dr. Doolittle, etc…
But there is one real shocker on the list!
Patrick McEnroe — The Sloth’s Birthday Party by Diane Redfield Massie.
Dude! Where did that come from? I thought I was the only one that remember this one!
But a stop at Amazon shows I’m wrong, not only are there glowing reviews for it, but it’s actually selling pretty well, despite seeming to be out of print.
I had three of Massie’s books when I was a kid. Sloth, The Lion’s Bed and A Thief in the Botanical Gardens. B

Scope Notes reviews Qwikpick

Man, the Kidlit god just keep smiling on the Qwikpick, formerly Middle Earth Mini Mart + Subs, lately!
Scope Notes wrote this really swell review of The Qwikpick Adventure Society: http://100scopenotes.wordpress.com/2008/03/25/book-review-the-qwikpick-adventure-society/
The Scoper is not just a librarian, but also a Qwikpicker at heart — check out this excerpt:
“A friend and I used to be regulars at the local Kmart plaza, eating Nutty Bars and perusing the car care section to debate which chamois was “probably most absorbent”. These are the things that happen growing up in a small town. “The Qwikpick Adventure Society” exposes these seemingly mundane life experiences as the occasionally life changing times they can be. “

Phineas Finn … last thoughts

I’ve finished my back-to-back reading of Phineas Finn and Phineas Redux by Anthony Trollope.
Together, the two books are almost as long as War and Peace and by the time it’s all over you feel like you can look back over Phineas’ career with fond nostlagia.
These books are part of the gargantuan epic begun with “The Warden” and carried through about 11 books or so. The most famous (and rightly so) of these book is “Barchester Towers.” With various characters taking center stage at different times. I’m not sure that any one character appears in every book, but Griselda Grantley is rarely more than one degree of seperation away.
The Phineas books reminded me of “Framley Parsonage,” an overlooked masterpiece from much earlier in the series. Here Trollope telescopes from the everday trials to world-changing politics and intertwines the two.
Phineas Redux also has a little bit of that deliciousness we love from “Barchester Towers.” All-in-all they make for highly recommended political soap-opera.
In other Trollope News:
I saw the first two episodes of the 1970s BBC version of the second set of the these books known as The Palliser Novels. The BBC Series was called The Pallisers. It has that terrible 1970s BBC lighting, but also some very nice casting.
The word on the street is that they may be remaking the Pallisers. Okay, but why not roll all the way back to The Warden and start the whole saga there? Alan Rickman can reprise his role as Slope! Snape has nothing on Slope!
The whole thing shouldn’t take more than a decade to get on film. Well, worth it, I’d say.

PixiePalace reviews Qwikpick!

The Qwikpick Adventure Society
The royal decree has gone forth from the palace:
This is a really fun book! It’s incredibly funny.
Thanks RosiePixie!

Let’s hear it for Sachar’s other books!

It seems like one hears so little about Sachar unless it involves Holes.
I think Holes might very well be the best kidlit novel of the last 20 years, but Sachar also writes what are possibly the best Chapter books of all-time…. The Sideways and Marvin Redpost books.
I just read “Marvin Redpost: Is He a Girl?”
It is a masterpiece. And anybody that doesn’t think so need only sit down and try to tell a story in short sentences with short words. What’s amazing is that in this medium, which would drive many of us to the broadest possible strokes, Sachar is able to be subtle. To let stuff float out there for kids to pounce on and marvel at.

Blackhand Gang fans … Get a Clue!

clue1.jpg
I got a UPS package early this morning bearing…
A Get A Clue ARC!!! Thanks, Justin!
Here’s the set-up-
Two boys and a girl. They hang out at a local shop and use the shop’s attic as their HQ…
WHAT? That sounds just like my own Qwikpick!
Well, so now there are two great books with that set up….
Librarians, bookstore owners, teachers, children – order these awesome books now! $5 each? That’s the bargain of the year!

  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Pub. Date: May 01, 2008 ISBN-13: 9780448448732
  • You may recall my elation at finding out that the son of Black Hand Gang writer Hans Jurgen Press was carrying on the tradition and that a new set of adventures would be coming out under the name Get a Clue by Julian Press.
    Well, I’ve seen it and it’s the answer to a 30-year desire – I have always, always, always wanted more Blackhand Gang. A solid non-kidsy mystery with a lavish illustration on every other page, which the reader must search thoroughly for clues. And it’s not just looking, you’ve got top put your brain in gear to know what to look for.
    The set-up of GetAClue is the same, but there are differences: Different kids, different gang, different animal sidekick… but, oh my stars, the guy can draw like a house on fire! Just like his father! But Julian’s style is a little different. And some of his tricks are downright sneaky!
    blackhand.jpg clue2.jpg
     Blackhand Gang by Han Jurgen Press and Get A Clue by Julian Press
    In the arc the drawings are a little fuzzy, but still the look is there. Black, white, one shade of gray – wonderful!
    There seem to be some translation problems and some of the Americanizations are a little forced, but hopefully some of this will be improved when the final edition comes out.
    There also seems to be some confusion about the main characters. One is introduced as a stud, but somehow shrinks into a geek. (I like the geek better, of course.) The two other characters seem rather undefined in the pictures. Again, it may just be the ARC.
    For 30 years I’ve regretted not getting a perfect score on the original Black Hand Gang. So I was determined to get every clue this time.
    ALAS, Julian Press outsmarted me! I’ve missed two already. Like I said, he’s trickier!

    YA Non-fiction treasure — Aha! Gotcha by Martin Gardner

    Aha! Gotcha: Paradoxes to Puzzle and Delight
    (Here the book is paired with “Aha! Insight” which I haven’t read yet. My copy just has “Aha! Gotcha”)
     I imagine there are a lot of adults like myself out there who were lucky enough to stumble across Martin Gardner’s great work when they were teenagers. (My own Gardner experience came from a Piers Anthony footnote, I think, and led to me digging through many, many old Scientific Americans to read Gardner’s Mathematical Games column.)
    Presumably some of those teens grew up to be math folks. Not me. In fact I was not a good math student. But I LOVED reading Gardner and recently got the bug again after picking up a copy of this book.
    This is a great book, but I’m not exactly sure what age group it’s meant for. It’s related to some Aha! filmstrips that were made for schools, but some of the material is deeper than what an average math student could handle. (Or at least deeper than what this average math student can handle.)
    But that’s okay, because the whole point of the book is to melt your brain anyway. So any clever high schooler and some middle schoolers should get a big kick out of this book. And every adult should give it a try.
    Cartoons illustrate some of the paradoxes and you can follow a cartoon, right? Maybe sometimes the explanation gets a little heady, but it’s all making you smarter.
    The simplest of the paradoxes are things like:
    This Sentence is False
    The more complicated stuff includes time-travel, cycloid curves, mirrors, confused store clerks, infinities of different sizes and all that sort of thing.
    One of the great things about this book is that it is NOT a quiz book. I hate those stupid books that are set up with answers in the back. You have to flip to the back, try to read one answer while not reading the others and the whole thing makes you feel stupid because you can’t get any right. The authors of these books, meanwhile, give the impression that the came out of the womb with all the right answers.
    Anyway, Gardner just wants to explain it all and elucidate and make you think, without turning it into a contest. It creates a different relationship between author and reader. Really!
    There’s also an interesting thing about two semi-kid-lit authors: Lewis Carroll and Edgar Allen Poe.
    While Carroll gets credit for all kinds of deep thoughts and clever tricks, Poe shows up for including a logic blunder in one of his books.

    Heaviest book of all time?

    At B&N* today, I happened to see a book that was “War & Peace,” “Anna Karenina” and “The Cossacks” all in one volume.
    WHAT IN THE SAM HILL?
    Why would you want to hold two of the world’s longest books on your lap at the same time? How could you possibly read this monster? Is this just a book you an give people that you know aren’t going to read any of it anyway, so why not make it look better by cramming three copyright-free titles into one. Ridiculous.
    *support your local independent bookstore, too!

    Qwikpick makes it to The Edge of the Forest!

    I’m so glad to finally make it to the virtual pages of The Edge of the Forest!

    Liz B. listed me as a GIFT BOOK suggestion!

    Liz was one of the first bloggers to even notice me back when I first started blogging, so I always have a warm spot for her blog, A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy

    John Christopher Week – The Lotus Caves

    jcweek1.jpg

    Oh, man, how many times did John Christopher blow my mind as a kid?

    Many times and here’s one of the big ones!

    The Lotus Caves

    This book appears to be out of print.

    Of course, that may be because it’s not titled “MoonZoomers in Peril: Cave Spawn of the Lotii.”

    Likewise the jacket copy describes an “insidiously solicitous interstellar superintelligence.”

    This is a perfect description, but it may not have made books fly off the shelves.

    Luckily, there’s no sentence in the book that’s anywhere that difficult to read. Once again, Christopher introduces BIG ideas through an adventure story, this one involving a stolen lunar crawler, a clue to the disappearance of an early astronaut and an unforgettable cave.

    In an attempt to hook the reluctant, I’m going to divulge a little more of the plot. No ending spoilers, but if you already want to read the book skip this part and discover it for yourself:

    The two boys, who are already in big trouble  for breaking lunar colony rules, take an unauthorized, but kind of boring, ride hundreds of miles across the barren lunar surface to visit the original, abandoned lunar station. There they find a notebook, overlooked for 70 tears, written by an astronaut who went missing. They learn that he had become obsessed with the idea that he had seen a giant flower during a lunar exploration.

    They follow his trail to find that … the astronaut had been right. In fact there’s a lot more than a flower. There are all sorts of Strange with a capital S things. But by the time they discover this, they’re trapped in the cave with the flower, the Strange things and something even Stranger which I won’t even tell you about here.

    Folks, I recommend you read this book yourselves and urge you to encourage bright mid-grade/YA readers to read it, too. A little bit of mind-blowing can do a lot for a kid. AND a book this good it can help him/her become a voracious reader for life. (Though they may be disappointed that not every book can do what this one does.)

    Nearly 40 years after it was written — and despite a zillion space books and movies since — this book is amazing.

    I said this at the beginning of John Christopher Week and I’ll say it again:

    The Lotus Caves (and more)  should be in print, on library shelves and in the hands of kids.