In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Book Fog

Dear Annie,

It's good to have you back for a bit.  I keep romping through kidlit blogs -- much fun.  Here's my latest discovery: the first entry in a make-a-90-second-video-summarizing-a-Newbery-winner:

Newberys of course make me think about what books are good and how people -- be they judges or book buyers or good ol' readers -- can distinguish the good from the average.

Right now, within eight feet of where I'm sitting, I have nine boxes full of bound galleys: paperback advance versions of chapter books which will be published between now and September.  I've already ordered most of the books coming out in the next three to four months, but right now it's summer ordering season.  I meet with sales reps from one or two publishers every week for the next six or so weeks.  I get anywhere from ten to 30 galleys from each company.  So there's a lot of triage before I even start reading.

We don't have a large Young Adult section, so the first thing I eliminate is usually books with photographs of shapely "women in big dresses," as one of my reps calls them.  If these women's heads are visible (sometimes we just get bodies), they have long waving tresses.  Forget 'em.  Then there are the tiny little early chapter books which are being released as hardcovers for $16.99.  There has to be something exceptional about those for me to consider them before their paperback stage.  After that, it's a matter of reading the blurbs on the backs, occasionally getting some guidance from a sales rep, and then plunging in. 

Before I had this job, I felt it was a point of honor to finish reading whatever I started.  That's just not possible now, although I frequently put down a book thinking, yes, I should come back to this.  Sometimes I do.  This week, I've read parts of:
  • An R.L. Stine book about a boy who keeps waking up on the first day of school, and each iteration becomes more creepy and violent. It's the first time, I confess, that I've read RLS.  Your mother used to have good things to say about Goosebumps for some inexperienced readers.
  • A book about a boy abandoned in Mt. Desert Island by his mentally ill mother.  He decides to make it home without involving the authorities.  Sounds a little like a book I was dissing a few weeks ago, but as of halfway through it feels more believable.
  • Here's the start of another's blurb: 'A snowy winter's night.  Three small children are chased from their home by the forces of a merciless darkness..."  I'm partway into it.  Evil orphanages.  Time travel.  Missing parents. Okay so far.
  • An unhappy young Yankees fan with an abusive father who's just moved from Long Island to a small town in upstate New York is going to find meaning in the prints of John James Audubon.  I'm looking forward to finishing this one -- it's by Gary Schmidt whose work I like.  Could be quite good.
  • A YA book about a high school runner who loses a leg in a car accident and has to learn to find happiness in her life again.  This one's out already -- the precis makes it sound worse than it actually might be.
  • A graphic novel about a ghost who tries to goad a middle school girl into being a budding mean girl.
  • A graphic novel about a girl who's an artist but too shy to show her art to anyone.
  • I've also listened to a new recording of Are You There God, It's Me Margaret -- made it all the way through that one.
Sometimes I feel that I'm stuck in the fog.  Large brown boxes of galleys loom up from time to time -- I grab handfuls of books and wander through the fog again.  Then every now and then the fog clears -- maybe there's even a little shaft of sunlight -- and I forget about all the other books I've got to get through this week and just get pulled into one really good book.  Countdown was like that, and A Tale Dark and Grimm.  That's not to say that all other books are bad.  We all read books that we like, but aren't necessarily always drawn into them.  And I like knowing about many different kinds of books that might connect with all the different readers I meet.

But it always reassures me when I find a really good one --- makes me feel like I still can think.




  1. I'm favorably inclined to the one-legged girl book because of Cynthia Voigt's _Izzy, Willy-Nilly_, another book about a YA who loses a leg. I liked that one, so maybe I like the genre of books about people (girls?) who lose a leg.

  2. I like this Video and three little are so nice to pray... its A book about a boy abandoned in Mt. Desert Island by his mentally ill mother.