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Category: children's literature

Los Angeles Public Library launches teen reading series

Cecil Castellucci at vromansWith young adult literature become something of a cultural juggernaut, it's about time the genre spawned a literary series in Los Angeles. Starting Thursday, the central branch of the Los Angeles Public Library will begin hosting a teen reading series on the fourth Thursday of each month.

Thursday's kickoff will feature local authors Lauren Kate ("Fallen in Love"), Abby McDonald ("Getting Over Garrett Delaney"), Blake Nelson ("Dream School"), Carol Tanzman ("Dancergirl") and Kathy McCullough ("Don't Expect Magic").

Each author will give a five-minute reading followed by a panel discussion and question-and-answer session led by Cecil Castellucci, founder of the teen reading series and an L.A.-based young adult author.

"It's about time we had a teen reading series here," said Castellucci, author of "First Day on Earth" and the upcoming "Year of the Beasts." "New York has had one for five years now.

"I'm really passionate and have been for years,  making sure that young adult gets the attention it deserves," added Castellucci, who runs a monthly young-adult reading club at Skylight Books in Los Feliz. "Because we're so spread out here, it's sort of difficult to get everybody together in one place. I've been longing for community."

FalleninloveCastellucci has been a part of the New York Public Library teen reading series for several years. She was part of a panel of seven young adult authors the Central Library in downtown L.A. hosted in November for the young-adult librarians at its 72 branches.

Eva Mitnick, acting manager of youth services for the Los Angeles Public Library, credits the teen reading series' creation to "the absolute awesomeness and energy of that panel discussion" and Castellucci's participation in a similar panel in New York.

"It's Cecil who is the force of nature behind this," Mitnick said.

The teen reading series will be held the fourth Thursday of each month at 6:30 p.m. in Meeting Room A at the Los Angeles Public Library, 630 W. 5th St. www.lapl.org/ya/events/teenscape.php


Young adult lit comes of age

'The Disenchantments' book review

'Beneath a Meth Moon' book review

-- Susan Carpenter

Photo: Teen reading series founder Cecil Castellucci at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena; "Fallen in Love" book jacket. Credit: Young-adult author Cecil Castellucci; Delacorte Books for Young Readers.

'The Hunger Games' stars to tour national malls, starting in L.A.

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in "The Hunger Games."
The stars of "The Hunger Games" will be traveling the country in advance of the film's March 23 release, starting March 3 with a stop at Westfield Century City mall in Los Angeles.

Actors Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth, along with director Gary Ross, will appear at the March 3 event. Subsequent stops are scheduled at malls in Atlanta, Phoenix, Chicago, Miami, Dallas, Minneapolis and Seattle.

"The Hunger Games," by Suzanne Collins, is an international bestseller with more than 23.5 million copies in print in the United States alone.


The eagerly awaited song of the Mockingay

"Mockingjay" book review

-- Susan Carpenter

Photo: Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in the upcoming Lionsgate film, "The Hunger Games." Credit: Lionsgate.

This Sunday: Van Vechten's Renaissance, Watergate, Szymborska and more

Carl-van-vechtenHe was a critic, a novelist, a photographer and he counted among his confidants some of the most accomplished black literary figures of his day including Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston and James Weldon Johnson. But Carl Van Vechten’s most notable role may have been the one he played as patron to the Harlem Renaissance. “Van Vechten,” writes Lynell George in her review of “Carl Van Vechten & the Harlem Renaissance/A Portrait of Black & White” by Emily Bernard, “dedicated his life’s work to, as Hughes once put it, ‘all things Negro’ -- literature, theater, ragtime, jazz and blues -- nurturing art and alliances, but not without acrimony.” Bernard explores the question of whether his presence in this cultural movement was a gift or a curse: “[W]as he an insider or an intruder?” George’s review of this fascinating figure leads our Sunday book coverage.

Scott Martelle reviews Thomas Mallon’s new novel “Watergate,” (yes, that Watergate), and he frames the discussion by noting that to write history “the story needs only to be true” but to write a novel, “the story must be plausible -- an often more difficult thing to accomplish.” While many of us were alive and witnessed the broad outlines of the third-rate burglary that brought down a U.S. president, the novelist’s task here is to make it plausible. Does it work as fiction? 

The notion of truth and fiction are at the heart of David Ulin’s fascinating critic’s notebook on “The Lifespan of a Fact,” John D’Agata and Jim Fingal’s book -- a discussion between writer and fact-checker  -- on the issue of invention in the world of literary nonfiction. Central to the discussion is an essay that D’Agata wrote about the suicide of 16-year-old Levi Presley, who jumped from the tower observation deck of Las Vegas’ Stratosphere hotel in 2002. The piece was commissioned by Harper’s, then rejected and picked up by the Believer after details in the piece could not be verified. And that’s the jumping-off point for the discussion.

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This Sunday: The smartest person in the room and 'Cuckoo's Nest'

Margaret Fuller

In her review of John Matteson's “The Lives of Margaret Fuller,” Laura Skandera Trombley poses an interesting question: “What must it have been like always to be the smartest person in the room without any of the privileges accorded to men?”

That's what Fuller continually had to contend with in a circle that included Emerson, Thoreau, Poe, Hawthorne and Horace Greeley. The newspaper editor and reformer Greeley hired her to become the New York Tribune’s first literary editor and then the paper’s first foreign correspondent. Emerson asked her to serve as editor of his transcendentalist journal the Dial. Less charitably, Poe considered her a “busybody” and an intellectual anomaly of her sex. Skandera Trombley, an eminent Twain scholar and president of Pitzer College, offers a long-overdue look at one of the more interesting intellectual figures of 19th century America.

It’s hard to believe that 50 years have passed since Ken Kesey’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”

"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"

was first published.  And now it's back again in an anniversary, hard-cover edition with the original jacket art. Carolyn Kellogg knew the story of the book and the popularity of the movie starring Jack Nicholson and Randall Patrick McMurphy. But until now she hadn't read the book and wondered if it deserved all the hype it has received. You can find her verdict in this Sunday's coverage.

Times book critic David Ulin reviews Nathan Englander’s short story collection “What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank,” noting that much of this work involves the “tension between the religious and the secular, between the American setting of much of this work and the more elusive textures of Jewish life.”  Englander shows his range and skill, tilting “toward the magical realist or, more precisely, toward the tradition of Jewish fable writing as embodied by Isaac Bashevis Singer and Sholem Aleichem.”

More after the jump

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John Corey Whaley, 28, discusses his Printz Award and what's next

"Where Things Come Back" is John Corey Whaley's debut novel.John Corey Whaley is living every debut author's dream. On Monday, his novel "Where Things Come Back" won the American Library Assn.'s prestigious Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults. The story of a teenage boy whose brother goes missing while everyone else obsesses over a woodpecker is "witty," "sardonic" and "groundbreaking," according to the ALA.

We caught up with the 28-year-old author for a phone interview in the town where he grew up and in which his novel takes place: Springhill, La.

You really can’t get any better than what you've just achieved -- winning a top literary prize with your very first book.

You’re telling me. I’m sort of still in a state of shock. It’s completely life changing and unbelievable and it’s crazy. It’s so great.

You were an English teacher for five years before you left the profession to become an author, correct?

In the middle of my fourth year teaching is when I got my book contract -- in 2010. I knew the book would come out in May 2011. My dream had always been that I would teach until I published a book, so my goal was to give myself one year to be an author, and I guess that changed today.

What gave birth to your story?

I grew up in a little town with about 6,000 or 7,000 people. I always knew from 11 or 12 years old that I wanted to be a writer, and I always wanted to write about growing up in a place like that that’s small and you don’t fit into. When I was a senior in college at Louisiana Tech, I was driving home and heard a story on NPR about this extinct woodpecker that someone saw in this small Arkansas town. The townspeople were all talking about how it gave their town this sense of hope because tourists from all over the world were coming to find this bird.

John Corey Whaley has won the Printz Award.I’d been trying to find a good place to place a teenager -- a kid trying to grow up in that kind of craziness. A story about life growing up as a teenager in a small town you don't fit into developed into a story about are we looking for the right things and do second chances exist, because while everyone in this town is preoccupied by this extinct bird coming back to life, the narrator’s younger brother goes missing. So then the story is sort of a parallel. He and his family are looking for their lives. Everyone else is preoccupied with this nonsense.

You’re living in the town where the story takes place?

In the town it’s based on. It’s really strange. In the book, Cullen Witter is very cynical about where he grows up, like I was as a teenager, but all the support everyone from my town has thrown my way since the book came out -- it’s really made me change my outlook and not be so bitter about it. It’s been a really cool thing to learn about yourself and get older. Sometimes it’s not about the place. It’s about the person. An amazing cool thing that’s come out of this is that so many people are proud to say, "He’s from this place." To have people stop me in the store and say, "Hey. I read that book." It’s like, "What?" It’s really crazy. I am on cloud nine.

Are you at work on another novel right now?

I am. I just recently finished my second novel, and I don’t think it will be out before 2012’s over because there’s no pub date. But I have two more novels coming out with Atheneum.

Are you relieved you finished it before winning the award?

Everyone has been like, "Oh my gosh, I’m so glad you finished that book because you’re not going to have any time to write a book." I was like, "Oh my gosh. I didn’t even think about that." I finished it last Thursday on my birthday. I had planned it that way because I’m kind of cheesy sometimes. I had no idea this was going to happen.

Does your second book have a title?

It's tentatively titled "The Defenestration of Abbott." It’s a story set in south Louisiana about -- I can’t tell you too much about it, but it’s sort of a murder mystery. It’s still a young adult novel, but it’s more concerned with the mysterious death of someone and the aftermath of all of that.

What has today been like for you?

Today has been a lot of congratulatory emails and tweets. My book was a trending topic this morning on Twitter. That’s mind blowing to me. That many people were saying the title of the book.... My publicist has contacted me about several opportunities that have popped up locally where I live before I start traveling. Right now, I’m just going to spend the rest of the day catching up on emails and phone calls. I’ve not talked to anybody via phone except for my mom and dad. I have all these friends waiting for my phone call. I nearly have no voice left.

-- Susan Carpenter

Photos: "Where Things Come Back" cover art, top; author John Corey Whaley, below. Credits: Atheneum Books for Young Readers

American Library Assn. announces 2012 Youth Media Award winners

DeadendinnoreltThe American Library Assn. announced the 2012 winners of its annual Newbery, Caldecott, Printz and other awards Monday in Dallas. The awards are given to authors and illustrators of books, audio books and videos for children and young adults.

Jack Gantos won the John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature with his novel "Dead End in Norvelt." The ALA described the book as "an achingly funny romp through a dingy New Deal town."

Author and illustrator Chris Raschka took the Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children with "A Ball for Daisy."

"Where Things Come Back," from debut young adult author John Corey Whaley, won the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults, as well as the William C. Morris Award for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens. The ALA described Whaley's novel about a boy agonizing over his brother's disappearance as "a groundbreaking coming-of-age tale."

Kadir Nelson, author and illustrator of "Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans," won the Coretta Scott King Book Award recognizing African American authors. Shane W. Evans, illustrator and author of "Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom," won the Coretta Scott King Book Award for illustration.

AballfordaisyDuncan Tonatiuh won the Pura Belpre Award honoring a Latino illustrator for "Diego Rivera: His World and Ours;" Guadalupe Garcia McCall won the Belpre Author Award for "Under the Mesquite."

Susan Cooper won the 2012 Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults. The Theodor Geisel Award for most distinguished beginning reader book went to "Tales for Very Picky Eaters," written and illustrated by Josh Schneider.

"The Running Dream," written by Wendelin Van Draanen, won the Schneider Family Book Award for best teen book embodying an artistic expression of the disability experience. "Close to Famous," by Joan Bauer and Brian Selznick's "Wonderstruck: A Novel in Words and Pictures," won the Schneider Award for middle-school readers.

Wherethingscomeback"Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy" by Bil Wright, won the Stonewall Book Award for exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience.

Ten books were named as part of the 10th annual Alex Awards, given to adult books that appeal to teen audiences. The winners include:

    "Big Girl Small" by Rachel DeWoskin
    "In Zanesville" by Jo Ann Beard
    "The Lover's Dictionary" by David Levithan
    "The New Kids: Big Dreams and Brave Journeys at a High School for Immigrant Teens" by Brooke Hauser
    "The Night Circus" by Erin Morgenstern
    "Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline
    "Robopocalypse: A Novel" by Daniel H. Wilson
    "Salvage the Bones" by Jesmyn Ward
    "The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt: A Novel in Pictures" by Caroline Preston
    "The Talk-Funny Girl" by Roland Merullo

ALA President Molly Raphael, during the ceremony at the association's midwinter meeting in Dallas, called the Youth Media Awards "one of the highlights" of her job. One of the fundamental roles of librarians is "empowering parents and caregivers with youth-friendly materials that will encourage children and teens to read. I hope to find today's titles in school libraries which desperately need our support ... to raise a nation of avid readers," said Raphael, whose organization is currently petitioning the White House to dedicate funding to school libraries.

-- Susan Carpenter

Photos: Cover art for "Dead End in Norvelt," by Jack Gantos; A Ball for Daisy," by Chris Raschka; "Where Things Come Back," by John Corey Whaley. Credits: Farrar Straus Giroux, Schwartz & Wade Books, Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Books this week: On Dear Leader and a capricious God

  Adam Johnson near the Pohyon Temple in North Korea.

Adam Johnson teaches creative writing at Stanford University and he describes himself as “probably the most un-Korean person in the world.” But that wasn’t the largest obstacle to Johnson in writing “The Orphan Master’s Son,” his new novel on that most closed of societies, North Korea, and the cult of personality around its now late -- but fully-alive in the book -- leader Kim Jong Il. Times staff writer Reed Johnson, no relation to the author, profiles Adam Johnson and his book, which is getting  lot  of attention, in a piece that starts on Sunday’s Arts & Books cover. He writes: “Possibly Johnson’s greatest challenge was trying to infiltrate the inner lives of characters in a country where self-censorship and blending in with the anonymous throng are essential for survival.” Adam Johnson, who will be at Vroman’s in Pasadena on Tuesday night, visited North Korea in 2007 to gain insight after spending years researching his novel, working from a handful of books by escaped dissidents. He also cited Times staff writer Barbara Demick’s book “Nothing to Envy:   Ordinary Lives in North Korea" as being particularly helpful “because she was always focused on the human dimension.”

Shalom Auslander also writes about the human dimension, but as David L. Ulin, our book critic, notes in a review of  his new novel “Hope: A Tragedy,” Auslander’s  great subject is “God’s capriciousness,” which can be challenging to frame.  Ulin notes that what Auslander brings to the task is "willfully outrageous, [he’s] a black humorist with an Old Testament moralist’s heart." This is Auslander’s first novel after the 2005 short story collection “Beware of God,” and his 2007 memoir “Foreskin’s Lament.”

As I was reading Scott Martelle’s review of “The Partnership:  Five Cold Warriors and Their Quest to Ban the Bomb," I was lamenting the lost value of bipartisanship in dealing with some of the nation’s difficult issues. The book, by former New York Times staffer Philip Taubman, records the efforts of four officials — Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, Sam Nunn and William Perry — and Sidney Drell, a Stanford physicist and nuclear expert, to curb nuclear weapons around the world. Martelle calls it a “complex book about complex subjects” but note that “Taubman does a clean job of reducing the elements to layman’s terms.”  

In her review of “The Odditorium,” a collection of stories by Melissa Pritchard,  Carolyn Kellogg notes that the “literary landscape is jammed with short stories.” They are a “glut” on the market, Kellogg writes, but she also notes that few of the authors working that parcel of the literary landscape “rise above to be seen as truly excellent.” She notes that “at her best,  Melissa Pritchard belongs in that number.”

Kenneth Turan takes a little break from the film critic’s beat to reflect on P.D. James' latest, “Death Comes to Pemberley,” which couples the formidable talents of the 91-year-old James with the Jane Austen set for murder and mayhem at the ancestral estate of Mr. Darcy of “Pride and Prejudice” fame. Fans of James and Austen seem happy with the marriage: The book is  No. 3 on this week's L.A. Times best-seller list for fiction.

The subject of suicide is not easy in the young adult market, and surviving suicide perhaps even less so. But Susan Carpenter writes that Jennifer R. Hubbard’s new book for ages 14 and up,  “Try Not to Breathe,” is a compelling and compassionate look into the motivations and rationales of teen suicide and the aftermath when it fails.”

Busy week? If so, you may have missed Patt Morrison's fine review of Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch;" Bob Drogin's take on Michael Hasting's provocative "The Operators:  The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan" and Kerry Luft's review of  "The Obamas."  And mark your calendar for Feb. 7 to see which critic will receive the Hatchet Job of the Year Award." Carolyn Kellogg  fills us in on the contestants. For you Stephen King fans, think for a moment about King Lear and then take a look at David Ulin's Reading Life  piece on King.

As always, thanks for reading.

-- Jon Thurber, book editor

Photo: Adam Johnson in North Korea near the Pohyon Temple. Credit: Adam Johnson



What should you give Jay-Z and Beyoncé's baby? Books. Oprah did.

Little Blue Ivy Carter, born Saturday night in New York City, has certain advantages in this world. Her parents, Jay-Z and Beyoncé, are rich and famous, wildly talented and superhumanly gorgeous.

So what do you give the baby born with everything? Books -- if you're Oprah, that is.

The Insider reports, "The Insider has learned that the TV titan [Oprah] sent Beyonce and Jay-Z's daughter a trunk full of children's books." Which books, exactly, were included? That's still a mystery.

But if Oprah wanted, she could have sent several trunks full of books. According to Us Weekly, Beyoncé and Jay-Z built a 2,200-square foot nursery for their daughter in their apartment in TriBeCa.

With all the crazy gifts given to the baby -- say, a $7,000 pink Swarovsky crystal-encrusted tub -- Oprah's seems pretty sensible. Heck, even if she'd had the trunk full of books lined in sable, and delivered by elephant, it wouldn't be the craziest thing that had happened in Blue Ivy Carter's two-day-old life.


Beyonce's baby Blue Ivy Carter gets a song from her daddy Jay-Z

Beyonce has a baby girl! She and Jay-Z welcome Blue Ivy Carter

Beyonce throws a 'Party' with sister Solange, Kelly Rowland [Video]

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter in December and Beyoncé in November. Credits: Charles Sykes / Associated Press, left; Jemal Countess / Getty Images, right.  

Walter Dean Myers named national ambassador for youth literature

WalterdeanmyersAcclaimed young adult and children's book author Walter Dean Myers will be the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, the Library of Congress announced Tuesday. Myers, 74, has five times won the Coretta Scott King Award, been honored with the Newbery Medal twice, was a finalist for the National Book Award and received the Printz Award for his bestselling book "Monster."

Myers will be the third writer to hold the post and the first African American. Brought up in Harlem, where many of his stories take place, Myers never finished high school yet remained a dedicated reader. He has published more than 100 books.

As ambassador he has adopted the platform "Reading Is Not Optional." The New York Times reported:

“I think that what we need to do is say reading is going to really affect your life,” he said in an interview at his book-cluttered house here in Jersey City, adding that he hoped to speak directly to low-income minority parents. “You take a black man who doesn’t have a job, but you say to him, ‘Look, you can make a difference in your child’s life, just by reading to him for 30 minutes a day.’ That’s what I would like to do.”

In 2009, John Scieszka, the first National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, wrote in the Los Angeles Times that "history comes artistically to life" in Myer's young adult book "Sunrise Over Fallujah."

The Library of Congress created the position to raise awareness about the importance of young people’s literature "as it relates to lifelong literacy, education, and the development and betterment of the lives of young people." Myers will serve a two-year term ending in 2013; he will be inaugurated at the Library of Congress in Washington on Tuesday.


Ally Condie talks "Crossed"

Not Just for Kids: Andrea Cremer on "Bloodrose"

Holiday gift guide: Books for children and young adults

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Walter Dean Myers. Credit: Malin Fezehai

'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' vs. 'Diary of a Zombie Kid'

In the first corner, in the blue book jacket: the wildly successful "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series by Jeff Kinney. In the opposite corner, "Diary of a Zombie Kid" in splatter-red.

The second is meant to be a parody of the popular children's books, but according to lawyers for "Wimpy Kid" creator Kinney, it's not funny: It's trademark and copyright infringement. A suit was filed Tuesday in Massachusetts, Publishers Weekly reports:

In the filing, Wimpy Kid noted that since the publication of the first book in April 2007 it has rapidly become a “cultural phenomenon,” selling more than 52 million copies, with merchandising that includes T-shirts, hats, action figures, swimwear, and board games. It calls Diary of a Zombie Kid “a counterfeit, copy, and/or colorable imitation.”

Abrams, which has published all six books in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, declined to comment on the lawsuit. At press time, PW was unable to reach Joe Dunn, publisher of Antarctic Press in San Antonio, Tex. [which published "Diary of a Zombie Kid"], or Antarctic’s counsel, copyright attorney William E. Maguire.

The success of the "Wimpy Kid" series has rubbed off on "Zombie Kid," which was selling at a respectable No. 50 spot on Amazon's comics and graphic novels bestseller list earlier this week.

Zombies have been treading their leaden steps into literature since Seth Grahame-Smith's surprise 2009 hit, "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies." The brain-hungry undead might have seemed an odd match for Jane Austen, but there was one thing that made them a perfect fit: Austen's work is in the public domain. Anyone can remake, retool or mash up "Pride and Prejudice," however, whenever they like.

Jeff Kinney's work? Not so much.

As of this writing, a second "Zombie Kid" book is slated to be released in January.


Interview: Jeff Kinney on his movie-bound 'Wimpy Kid'

'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies' -- there's an app for that

Seth Grahame-Smith discusses 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies'

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Images: Left, Jeff Kinney's "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever." Credit: Amulet Books. Right, "Diary of a Zombie Kid." Credit: Antarctic Press


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