One of PW’s regular roundups of just-to-be-released US children’s books…
One of PW’s regular roundups of just-to-be-released US children’s books…
Alexandra Alter reports for NYT:
“I never had a childhood,” the writer James Baldwin once said. “I was born dead.”
Baldwin delivered this bleak assessment of his youth when he was around 50, and in the middle of writing “Little Man, Little Man,” his only children’s book.
The story unfolds from the perspective of a curious, irrepressible 4-year-old boy named TJ, who loves music and playing ball, and navigates a neighborhood where gun violence, police brutality, alcoholism and drug addiction are looming threats — an outside world that even his warm home life with loving parents can’t shield him from.
The rerelease of “Little Man, Little Man” coincides with a broader revival of Baldwin’s later works.
Concluding an admirable round up of ‘grievance’ titles recently published for children and young people, the Wall Street Journal reviewer Meghan Cox Gurdon writes:
Amid this angsty abundance, who or what is being resisted and persisted against is kept mostly in the shadowy realm of understatement, though in the Hudsons’ book there are references to bullies and kids in MAGA hats. In Ms. Styron’s handbook, the actress Lena Dunham bemoans the “slight condescension” of doctors. Ms. Styron herself inculpates “the people in control of things” and “some sects” that in history “have done a pretty bang-up job of oppressing other sects.” Ms. Rich, in “Girls Resist!,” blames “society” for giving young women “messed-up notions” and encourages activists to identify their “enemies” by compiling lists of those who are “entrenched in the opposite view.”
Listing enemies, tabulating “daily oppressions” (Ms. Rich again), sewing up a man’s mouth, even on paper—it seems such a joyless way to spend the fleeting years of adolescence. I suppose there’s a market for everything.
Highly recommended piece by an American fan of Joan Aiken’s children’s fiction:
Aiken’s favorite literary terrain was the blurred border where nineteenth-century realism begins to slip into folklore and fantasy. This is a realm of absurd stock characters and hoary narrative devices: cruel governesses, kindhearted orphans, counterfeit wills, hidden passageways, long-lost relations, doppelgängers, clues hidden in paintings, castaways, coincidences, sudden returns from the dead. But instead of abashedly sneaking in one or two of these elements, as another writer might do, Aiken piled them one atop the other, in the same teetering plots. One wrongly disinherited orphan might be irritating, but two wrongly disinherited orphans in the same novel is something else—and it’s in exploring that something else, its silliness and its surprising depth, that Aiken’s novels become so rich and so strangely moving.
This year’s winner of the Kelpies Prize is Hannah Foley, with The Lost Wizard of Nine Wtiches Wood.
Celia Bryce and Robin Scott-Elliot were the two other shortlisted authors.
The Kelpies Prize is an annual prize for new Scottish writing for children run by publisher Floris Books.
Floris Books launched the Kelpies Prize in 2004 with support from the Scottish Arts Council, now Creative Scotland, to encourage and reward new Scottish writing for children. Previous winners include Mike Nicholson, Scottish Children’s Book Award winners Janis Mackay and Alex McCall (the youngest writer ever to win the Kelpies Prize), and the prize also launched the writing career of the multi-award-winning Lari Don.
There are three books on the shortlist of the Bookbug Prize, administered by Scottish Book Trust.
These three books will be gifted to each Primary 1 pupil in Scotland.
The winning title will be announced in January. Shortlisted authors and illustrators receive £500 per book, and the winner £3,000.
Really interesting interview with the illustrator of the US cover for The Hate U Give and the way the original concept has been adapted for the movie poster:
The cover for Angie Thomas’s acclaimed Black Lives Matter–inspired novel, The Hate U Give, began, fittingly, as a piece of protest art. Back in 2015, Debra Cartwright, the artist who made the illustration, was sitting at her desk at People magazine in Times Square while a protest over the death of Freddie Gray took place on the street below. Unable to knock off work to join in, Cartwright did the next best thing: She sketched an illustration on Photoshop of a woman holding up a protest sign. Only her puff of curly hair is visible above the edge of a poster with the words “End Police Terror.” The piece went viral, and eventually, Angie Thomas saw it on Instagram and suggested it to her publisher as cover material. Last week, the official poster for the movie adaptation, due out in October, was released online; the poster is closely modeled on Cartwright’s work.
It opens with an immaculately written Prologue, a single page of beautifully cadenced scene-setting prose which immediately sets up high expectations.
The opening chapters are set in a college called Knollwood Prep and I was briefly concerned that the book was going to be a conventional teen drama about a secret student club.
But it opens up in the fourth chapter to bring in a compelling back story involving the main character’s family.
Charlotte Calloway’s father, Alistair, had attended Knollwood a generation earlier and been a member of the the same society that Charlie herself joins.
From this point on the novel is variously told from the points of view of Alistair, Charlie’s mother Grace, and of Charlie herself.
As the thriller builds momentum, and the mystery surrounding both Grace’s disappearance several years previously and the true explanation behind the apparent suicide of a student who was at Knollwood with Charlie’s father, the reader is increasingly drawn into a web of intrigue and betrayal involving the older generation.
Klehfoth doesn’t pull any punches when writing these scenes, which is what makes the book so admirable. This is very much a Young Adult novel, rather than a work of teen fiction.
Some of the contemporary escapades involving Charlie and her fellow students can have a bit of a Riverdale vibe about them, even occasionally of boarding school antics as seen in The House of Anubis. Klehfoth’s writing never falters, always hitting the appropriate note.
She is particularly good at describing the foibles of the rich and privileged set who make up the membership of the secret society and from which Charlie herself comes. So good I wondered if the author herself comes from a similar background.
I had the opportunity to ask her this question during a lightning interview at an event in London recently. Apparently not. Her Indiana upbringing was far more humble, though when she attended college in Orange County, she was surrounded by students from a smart set whose parents would, quite literally, be able to buy them houses.
I also learnt that All These Beautiful Strangers is her first attempt at full-length fiction, which makes the way she manages to structure and interweave her mixed point of view narrative so extraordinary.
The book is already optioned and I can imagine it making a really good Netflix drama. But it’s as a thoroughly good read that I am recommending it here and giving it the full five out of five, because this is as good a YA thriller as you are likely to come by this year.
The Beano is celebrating its 80th Anniversary.
According to a report in The Independent, “The Beano … now sells more than 37,500 copies a week, or 1.86 million copies a year. In a comic market which has dropped by approximately 10 per cent in the same period, these figures are somewhere in the region of miraculous, yet simple testimony to publishers DC Thomson’s knowledge of their market. “Online traffic has grown 900 per cent in the last year,” says Stirling. “Two million kids use the site, which is the number of kids who read the comic itself back in the 1950s.”
This week’s anniversary issue is guest-edited by David Walliams.
Iain Sawbridge, chief marketing and content officer at Beano Studios, told The Independent he thought the Beano success is partly down to the fact that much of the entertainment industry still hasn’t found a way of replicating what The Beano got right more than 60 years ago. “The reality is, the media industry doesn’t ‘think kid’ enough” he says. “So children aren’t always getting the entertainment experiences they deserve in broadcast or digital environments, and the digital world where older kids now spend most of their time isn’t made for 6 to 12s.” That strikes me as very true.
He goes on.. ““Gaming, YouTube and social media are largely designed for 13 and over, and yet children now spend more time online than on television. Why aren’t there more places made for them, with content they love and environments that are safe? That’s why we created beano.com and our YouTube channel, to complement The Beano comic.”
Long live The Beano in all its forms.
Choosing Melvin Burgess first new YA book for 5 years as her Children’s Book of the Week in The Times on Saturday, Alex O’Connell wrote:
Melvin Burgess, the Carnegie medal-winner and godfather of the British young adult genre, has returned with the first in a new witch series, which, as you would expect from the realist who wrote the 1996 drugs novel Junk, mixes fantasy with a very recognisable reality of what it is to be a teenager in the modern world.
Burgess builds this world with relish and Bea is a girl to root for. There’s a thrilling final scene in which Bea must use all her powers — and trust a friend — to get her family back. Burgess is a master storyteller and this series could fly and fly.