John Christopher Week – The Lotus Caves


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.


Nikki Giovanni’s reading & Clifford bashing

Just got back from seeing Nikki Giovanni.

It was a nice, small setting and somehow I ended up front and center.

She’s an amazing storyteller and very funny, she had the ladies of the book club laughing time and again.

She showed us her upcoming book “The Grasshopper’s Song” with illustrations by Chris Raschka.

We got the wild, annotated version of the book, with Giovanni making verbal footnotes on everything from Brown VS. Board of Ed. to Michael Vick and a ton of other things.

Rashcka’s drawings have a real old school Golden Book feel to them.

She also talked about her next book, which will be about Lincoln and Douglass.

She talked about so many different things, but one I couldn’t agree with was an anti-Clifford rant.

It was unclear whether she thought Clifford did die or should have died, but either way she’s not a fan.

review: Millicent Min: Girl Genius by Lisa Yee


Dear Judy Blume Diary,

 It’s extra hard to share my Special Feelings with you this time.

 I still love you and I still love Fudge and Peter and Sheila, but … there’s someone else.

 But I think you’d like her, too! Her name is Millicent Min and she’s smart and messed up and so are her friends and her parents and her friend’s parents.

 One reason I like her is that she’s got to be the most annoying kid since … me. I can imagine a certain camp counselor of mine reading the book and shaking his head with sympathy. (“I wonder if that Sammy kid ever learned to keep his mouth shut for two seconds?”) Every time I picked up the book I had to readjust to Millicent’s outrageous way of thinking and talking.

 I’d talk about another one of my favorite concepts, but it might be a spoiler so I’ll skip it for now.

 Don’t worry, Judy Blume Diary, I’m planning to read Superfudge real soon. But please please please don’t be mad if I accidentally read “Stanford Wong Flunks Big Time” first.

Great Quotes from KIDlit

While reasearching my newspaper column this week, I came the AFI’s list of 400 all-time great movie quote nominees. (“Frankly my dear” won with The Godfather in 2nd.)

Interesting how movie buffs love their quotes to death– I used to walk around spouting movie lines ALL the time and I’m sure it was very annoying — whilst kidlitters never seem to quote quotes. .First lines of books, perhaps, but not actual quotes from a book character.

So anyway, here’s a  few votes for the Top 100 Kidlit Quotes, I hope other bloggers will help fill out the list. Perhaps someone else has already started one?

One more step, Mr Hands, and I’ll blow your brains out!” – Jim in Treaure Island.

“Ramona, I’m afraid we’ve had a misunderstanding.”  Ramona’s teacher in Ramona the Pest

“Pee-tah … Pee-tah … take me with you.” – Fudge in Superfudge

“I hear you’re the fastest fox on wheels.” Fox’s Mom

“And you’re not secretary-treasurer either.” Janie in Harriet the Spy

“That’s it? That’s it? That’s all it says for my one hundred and forty-two dollars? We’ve been swindled again.” Alan Mendelsohn

The instant fame and fortune genre

My recent rereading of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing got me thinking about all the books I read way back when that featured kids getting famous or rich or both sometimes for no reason at all.

For instance, Fudge accidentally gets cast in a TV commercial, as seen on this cover:

Other examples, Billions for Boris, The Toothpaste Millionaire, Pinkwater’s Last Guru, Cresswell’s Absolute Zero… (note: I’m not complaining about these books! The Last Guru and Absolute Zero were a couple of my favorites circa 7th grade. And as I’ve said before the Toothpaste book seems to have stuck in the mind of my whole generation.)

It seemed to be taken for granted in the 70s that it was quite possible that any one of us could get rich, famous or both. Or at least our little brothers could.

One can certainly understand why this was popular, it’s the modern day equivalent of kissing a frog or finding buried treasure. And it sort of fits in with that whole 70s TV culture. Plus, kids who grew up during the Great Depression were now writing books.

But it appears to me that the genre has dried up. I can’t think of the last book I saw that featured such a plot. (Okay, well, Harry Potter suddenly found out he was rich, but that was a little overshadowed by finding out he was a wizard.)

In fact, that seems to be the wish-fulfillment story of the day – give a kid magical powers, a dragon, a broken automaton, etc… But when’s the last time little we gave the kid a tricycle and told him to ride it around in front of a camera?