When Tinkers won the Pulitzer Prize, I put it on my to-read list where it lingered for two years. I had a hard time summoning enthusiasm after reading the description every time I went looking for a book. A few months ago, I deleted it off my to-read list acknowledging that I would probably never read it. Last week I thought I would give it another shot and now I wonder why I waited so long. Paul Harding's first novel sucked me in right from the hallucinatory beginning and I didn't want it to end. The banalities are such: George is dying and reflective on his life, family and career. The narrative alternates to a time when George is very young and focuses on his father, a man who ends up being unfairly defined by his grand mal seizures. In between these paragraphs, there are excerpts from the fictional book called The Reasonable Horologist and other shorter paragraphs that seem nonsensical at first, but end up working at the end. Time and memories are the main theme and this book has a rural New England setting.
With a wry wit honed as an Emmy Award winning writer and animator for Sesame Street, author and illustrator Mo Willems broke into the world of Children's Literature in a big way in 2003 with a bus obsessed pigeon. The following year he endeared himself to children and parents alike with his spot on depiction of a distraught toddler who has lost her stuffed animal in the picturebook Knuffle Bunny, which also earned Willems his second Caldecott Honor medal from the American Library Association (ALA).
But it was Willems' Elephant and Piggie books for early readers that secured his renown as "the Dr. Seuss of this generation." In fact, his first Elephant and Piggie book: There is a Bird on Your Head! received the 2008 Geisel Award Medal, which the ALA gives to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English in the United States during the preceding year. The winners are recognized especially for their ability to creatively and imaginatively engage children in reading. Willems won the Geisel Award again in 2009 for his second Elephant and Piggie book: Are You Ready to Play Outside? He received the Geisel Honor Award in 2011 and 2012 for the Elephant and Piggie stories: We Are in a Book! and I Broke My Trunk.
If you haven't yet introduced your beginner reader to an Elephant and Piggie story -- there are now 17 to choose from -- each one as delightful as the next, all featuring large type and short sentences that manage to convey the charming friendship Elephant and Piggie share. (If Willems is this generation's Dr. Seuss, Elephant and Piggie are this generation's Frog and Toad -- good friends who appear in the beginner reader stories by Arnold Lobel.)
Whether you are a brand new or longtime fan of Elephant and Piggie, you are sure to enjoy meeting them this Friday, April 13 at 4:30 pm when we will be sharing some of their stories, a short film, and a craft celebrating their adventures together. Call us at 349-3100, or register online to reserve a seat. And stop by the reference desk between 2:30 and 4 pm Friday afternoon to try out the "Don't Let the Pigeon Run this App" activity we have on our iPads. In the meantime, you can create a dance for Elephant and Piggie at The Pigeon Presents website, or visit Mo Willems' website to find more fun and games!
Last night the National Book Critics Circle awards were presented to the best books published in English. They are the only awards chosen only by book critics. The National Book Critics Circle "honors outstanding writing and fosters a national conversation about reading, criticism and literature". Great mission! We like fostering conversations about reading too!
February is National African American History Month, and fittingly, Kadir Nelson's Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans, recently won the American Library Association's 2012 Coretta Scott King Author Award. Nelson has provided an overarching introduction to the difficult history of African Americans, told in the voice of an elderly female whose grandfather was born in Africa and was kidnapped and taken to America as a slave at age six.
We are still a few weeks away from the Academy Awards, but the nominations were announced last week. Out of the nine best picture nominees, six are based on books. So while maybe watching the nominated movies is on your February list, it also proves an opportunity to add some new book titles as well. The six books include:
Recently I decided to read a mystery that was either nominated for or won an Edgar Award. I choseThe Lock Artist, 2010 Best Novel winner, because it sounded interesting. I was not disappointed. The story is narrated by Mike, a "boxman"- someone who can open any lock without a key whether it's on a safe, a door, a window or a padlock. We know this talent has landed him in prison at the age of 18 and that from there he writes his life story. We also know Mike is known as "Miracle Boy" because he survived a family tragedy that is hinted at throughout the book. This tragedy rendered him unable to speak, which brings an interesting facet to the tale. When he falls in love he is only able to communicate with the object of his desire through his other talent- drawing. The Lock Artist is not just one mystery, but many within the life of Mike- which job finally landed him in prison, what happened to the girl he loves, who is the dangerous and mysterious man who employs him, what happened to him as a child? Each chapter jumps to a different point in time in Mike's life with many ending as cliffhangers.
Lauren Myracle writes about being un-nominated for the National Book in the Huffington Post. Put in a really tough position, Myracle comes across as funny, tender and sympathetic. And apparently I wasn't the only one who added Shine to my Goodreads list.
Julian Barnes was awarded the Man Booker prize this week for his recent short novel, The Sense of an Ending. Reviews of the book include key words like "compelling", "memorable" and "dexterously crafted". Barnes is well known in Britain, and has made the Booker short list three times in the past. He was the front runner going into the final days of the Booker, a prize awarded to British authors and authors from the Commonwealth. Usually considered one of the more prestigious literary awards, the Booker prize wasn't without it's own controversy this year. Critics complained that the short list was less literary in an effort to be more accessible and reward popular titles. Can a book be accessible and popular while also being literary? Color me intrigued - I've just added this to my to-read list.
The National Book Award finalists were announced last week and cover fiction, non-fiction, poetry and young adult literature written by an American author. In the original announcement, Lauren Myracle's Shine was mistakenly announced as a finalist for the young adult literature category instead of Chime by Franny Billingsley. The National Book Awards admitted to the mistake right away and made an announcement that Shine would remain on the list due to it's literary strength. But in a new shocking twist this week, The National Book Awards has asked Myracle to withdraw from the shortlist.
Jack Gantos is one of my favorite authors, especially when I'm in the mood for a quirky, darkly funny read. Dead End in Norvelt is no exception - in fact, it had me laughing out loud in several places about the (fictional?) escapades of the protagonist, also named Jack Gantos! I wish I'd been witness to the real-life childhood of Gantos, to see exactly which of the characters and situations in this novel occurred exactly as he describes. So many favorite scenes - one where Jack is enlisted to dress as the Grim Reaper to determine whether an old person is dead or not, another when his nose bleeds AND he faints after seeing what he thinks is a woman stripping the skin off her arm with her teeth.