Archives for posts with tag: series

Woo hoo! Sara Pennypacker’s latest book in the Clementine series is now available (Hyperion, $14.99)! These books, illustrated by the incomparable Marla Frazee, are my top recommendation for any early reader, who is ready for chapter books. Clementine and the Spring Trip is the 6th book in the series and there is due to be one final installment. Clementine, the first volume, is still my favorite, but this new one had me giggling all the way through. Clementine has the most delightful perspective on the world around her and I love love love that the adults in her life (parents, teachers, even the principal) recognize her uniqueness and support her, even when she’s challenging them. As many times as she has been sent to the principal’s office for not paying attention, the principal pays close attention to Clementine. Her parents encourage her to expend her energy in constructive venues (art, building projects, growing a garden) and never try to stifle her creativity. Her mother, the artist, and father, the building superintendent, have found happiness in their own lives and therefore are comfortable helping Clementine find her happiness. I admire the lack of DRAMA in these books, even as they are delightful to read and filled with clever stories and narratives. Pennypacker is excellent at recognizing the priorities of a third-grader (spring trip? great! but, not on bus 7, it smells!) and Frazee adds a tremendous amount of insight as well as humor into her illustrations: the image of the class gagging at the mere thought of riding bus 7 is perfect! Can’t wait for the final book. No! Stop! I don’t want this series to end!

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According to this blog the New York Times will soon start splitting it’s Children’s and Young Adult titles, among other changes. It’s an interesting move from both perspectives. The original ‘rant’ argued that children’s books should not be considered ‘young adult’ just because adults read them as children; in other words, “Nostalgia is what is going on here and it isn’t fair. That is, it is all well and good that those adults who enjoy reading young adult books today like to reminisce about their favorite teen reads. But when they include children’s books among them and call them YA, they are marginalizing the true readership of these books” (Monica Edinger). On the flip side, it’s also interesting that ‘young adult’ books are finally being recognized as a distinct and identifiable category. Now I don’t think there will be much agreement on what exactly ‘young adult’ means. Personally, I hope the disagreement remains because undefinable things are generally more interesting to talk about. A few years ago I hosted a panel at an academic conference entitled “Exploring Young Adult Literature”. In the question portion, I asked the panelists to explain how they had defined ‘YA’ for their respective papers. The range of answers were interesting and included readership, psychological and developmental stages, and publishing designations. This range of definitions lead to a great discussion that continued over lunch. The day would have been a lot less fun if there had been one definitive answer.

In this blog, I unofficially use publisher’s marketing strategies as a guideline, simply because many of my teen suggestions come from the YA section of our store. Books that are placed in this section are usually culled from teen lists and teen imprints. It’s quite clear if a book is designated as YA through cover illustration, jacket description, accompanying promotional materials, not to mention the book’s price point. All of this, of course, begs the question of how a manuscript becomes designated as ‘YA’ by the publisher and acquires all of these peritextual components. Authorial intention? Previous publications? Content? A particular genre happens to be popular in other current YA fiction? Age of protagonists? Sexuality? All of these are a small list of possible contributing factors. Some contributing factors are easily understood; some seem completely mysterious. You can see why this is a really interesting topic!

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As for today’s recommendation, I’m going back to our picks and one of my favorite books from this year: Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys (Scholastic, $18.99). Like much of YA lit there is a tremendous amount of ambiguity in this novel. I feel like every time I try to describe it, I can’t quite find the words I need. This book eludes concrete definitions, which perhaps is precisely why it is YA lit.

Blue lives in a house full of psychics. She doesn’t have the gift herself, but she possesses the ability to augment others’ gifts. Therefore on St. Mark’s Eve, when she sees the spirit of a boy who has not yet died, there can be only two possible explanations: either he’s her true love or she’s the one who kills him.

Gansey is on a quest. A junior at the all-boys Aglionby prep school, he surrounds himself with the friends and resources he needs to uncover an ancient legend. He’s wealthy and charismatic: a little too pompous for Blue, but she is slowly pulled into Gansey’s obsession. She has no interest in falling in love, certainly not with a Raven Boy from Aglionby Prep, but then why did Blue see Gansey walking the copse road, and what exactly connects her spirit to his? The first in a quartet, The Raven Boys blurs the lines between mysticism and realism. It’s an auspicious start to what is sure to be an excellent YA series.

Yesterday kicked off Yalsa‘s Teen Read Week so I thought it would be a great time to highlight YA books. There are so many phenomenal YA writers now and I’ve really enjoyed seeing people take the genre increasingly seriously over the past few years. Did you see the NPR list from this summer?

For teens who do a lot of reading, I’ll start by recommending Kerstin Geir’s Ruby Red (Henry Holt, $9.99), which is the first in a trilogy followed by Sapphire Blue and Emerald Green. The books are translated from the German and the pacing of the first volume is very different than many American YA books. The narrative is methodical — slowly establishing the character and building up the intricate context — and it incorporates time travel, secret societies, romance, and history. The hardcover flap jacket is stunning and I first picked up the book because it was so attractive. Unfortunately, the paperback cover is kind of trashy and I’m having a harder time selling it. The second volume is available this October. Ruby Red ends right when the action really started picking up and I’m anxious to read Sapphire Blue. I plan to buy it in hardcover as that paper back cover is terrible and doesn’t do justice to the quality of the story! Even teens who are widely read might have missed this highly-recommended series.

Rick Riordan is starting to become a household name. His book, The Lightning Thief, was made into a movie and most of our customers are at least familiar with his books. Of his series for middle-grade readers, The Kane Chronicles are my favorite. The two primary characters, Sadie and Carter, are brother and sister, but Carter has grown up traveling with their father, and Sadie lives in London with their mother’s parents. They have met over the years, but don’t really know each other until the beginning of their adventures in The Red Pyramid (Hyperion Books, $9.99). They have such a quirky and genuine dynamic. They bicker and save each other and bicker while saving each other. I laughed out loud several times during their conversations. Unlike Riordan’s other series’, The Kane Chronicles focuses on Egyptian Mythology. Sure sure, he’s taking some artistic license in these books, but it’s obvious that he’s done a tremendous amount of research and I honestly felt like I was learning something new along the way. I thoroughly enjoyed the two strong female and male narrators and also really appreciated the subtle issue of growing up in a mixed-race family that occasionally surfaces in the narrative.

The series is currently in progress; the third volume, The Serpent’s Shadow, is in hardcover. Be careful, though! The covers of this series are almost indistinguishable from Riordan’s Lost Heroes of Olympus series, which is also in progress. Most readers will enjoy both series, but might be confused if they end up with the wrong book!

Today is my final post on non-fiction for the week, and I must admit this topic was much harder than I expected, probably because I don’t read a lot of non-fiction myself. I know there are some great series out there, but I am starting to agree with the Guardian article that non-fiction just doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

Today’s recommended series is thanks to a tip I received from a customer. A boy, about 11 years old, came into our store one day asking about books on physics, technology, the periodic table. I had no idea what he was talking about, but finally discovered the Basher series. The books are written by various authors but illustrated by Simon Basher (Kingfisher, $8.99). This particular young customer had bought a few of these books the day before and wanted to know what else we had from the series. I’ve never seen a kid so enthusiastic about books on grammar, music, chemistry, math, or punctuation, but as I gathered the series from around the store, he got increasingly excited and had a really hard time deciding which one to take home. I started to see the appeal. Simon Basher is an internationally recognized artist, and this series contains delightful, vibrant illustrations. Each book is narrated by relevant characters; according to the website description of Astronomy: Out of this World!, “The universe is an enormous place. Imagine it as the home of a crowd of cool cosmic characters, each with their own personality. This book is your essential guide to these out-of-this-world beings who make the universe tick.” The books are quirky, humorous, and informative and the website is engaging and interactive, with games, activities, and further information on the series’ topics. I was a little sad that the customer didn’t choose the grammar book, but his parents did remind him several times that they could come back for more books later. Mollified, he selected two: Physics and The Periodic Table. What an endorsement for this excellent series!

Today’s category is rather general, because this recommended series covers a lot of topics. Turtleback Books, of HarperCollins, publishes a series of books entitled Let’s Read and Find Out – Science ($5.99), which are edited according to levels. The levels are as much about cognitive development as reading level. Level 1 includes titles such as Clouds, From Seed to Pumpkin, Fireflies in the Night, My Five Senses, What Lives in a Shell, and A Nest Full of Eggs.

Level 2 contains significantly more books and is more conceptual than Level 1. Examples of titles in Level 2 are Why Do Leaves Change Color?, Fossils: Tell of Long Ago, What Happens to Our Trash?, How Do Birds Find Their Way?Follow the Water from Brook to Ocean, Volcanoes, How Do Apples Grow?, Forces Make Things Move, What Will the Weather Be?, and the latest title, Almost Gone: The World’s Rarest Animals.

On day three, I’m already tripping over books and gender. It’s an ongoing issue and one I want to address quickly. Are there ‘girl books’ and ‘boy books’? What kinds of limits are we placing on children and books when we use these types of filters? On the other hand, I, like many booksellers I’m sure, have seen boys reject a book because it’s about a girl and many, but certainly not all, girls seem to prefer Daisy Meadows’s Fairy series over Captain Underpants. I’ve really enjoyed seeing articles lately recognizing that sometimes boys like to wear dresses, and sometimes boys want to read fairy books. What is even more gratifying is to see their parents happily buying fairy books for them. When the child is in the store, I generally try to point out a few different types of books and let them decide for themselves, but the issue is exceptionally tricky when someone is buying a gift for a child they do not know. I often wonder if I’m doing a disservice to boys and girls, when I send grandparents home with non-fiction for their grandsons, gift-wrapped in blue paper, with a robot sticker on the front. Although I expect these questions to surface regularly, this blog will strive to remain gender neutral, and I’ll let you decide for yourselves. But what do you think about books and gender?

I often recommend Scholastic’s series Geronimo Stilton ($6.99, translated from the Italian) for kids who are old enough to read chapter books, but reluctant to move beyond the early reader step series that so many publishers offer. Geronimo Stilton is a mouse detective and the books are full of adventure and humor. However, it’s the page lay-out that really distinguishes this series. While not a comic book, various words are printed in a wide variety of whimsical fonts, small color illustrations are sprinkled throughout the text, and there are numerous full-page illustrations. This approach engages kids who might be put off by too much text and I firmly believe that learning to read images is just as important, and equally complicated, as learning to read text. Enthusiasts will be kept busy reading for a while as there are over 50 books in the series, and his sister, Thea, has her own spin-off series.

Sara Pennypacker’s Clementine (Hyperion, $5.99) is by far my favorite character from an early reader series. She’s spunky and resourceful, with a sense of humor. She gets into trouble a lot, mostly for not paying attention, but she is paying attention, just not always to her teacher. Nevertheless, she has quirky relationship with her teachers and principal, and ultimately they seem to understand that Clementine always has the best of intentions. Her parents encourage her uniqueness and gently remind her how much she is loved. Marla Frazee’s illustrations are perfectly paired with the text and bring out the subtle humor in this story. The image of Clementine talking to the principal is priceless! The fifth book in this series, Clementine and the Family Meeting, has recently been released in paperback. Luckily there are two more Clementine books to come before the series ends.

Sunny Holiday, by Coleen Paratore, has become a recent favorite (Scholastic, $5.99). Sunny is more assertive and confident than Clementine, and is not afraid to speak her mind. Sunny and her best friend Jazzy live in an apartment building filled with strong, independent women who gather together for a monthly dance party. Surrounded by these role models, Sunny decides to create a Kid’s Day, and in the process learns how much influence kids really can have. The second book in the series, Sweet and Sunny, is still in hardcover. Sunny has a lot more to say, so here’s hoping we see more of this series.

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