Tuesday, August 21, 7pm, at Boswell:
Stacy DeKeyser, author of The Brixen Witch (Margaret McElderry Books).
Inspired by The Pied Piper of Hamelin, DeKeyser puts her own spin on the tale. 12-year old Rudi finds a gold coin in a setting that DeKeyser is inspired by the Italian Alps, which causes no end of problems. He puts it back, but this leads to a terrible rat infestation. It’s a bigger mess than ever, and it’s up to Rudi to fix it. Lots of great advance reads from the kids’ reviewers on this one.
Booklist notes “this book is just right for reaffirming one's belief in the power of story as it freshly calls upon elements of mysterious and magical folklore, truths of fearful and foolish human nature, and lots of rats.”
Kirkus affirms that The Brixen Witch is “Fresh and satisfying for middle-grade readers.”
And Kim Dare of Fairfax, Virginia approves of the story in School Library Journal: “The final confrontation requires Rudi to rely on his wits and on the other villagers, and leads to a satisfying conclusion. The folksy language and silhouette spot art give this Pied Piper-inspired story an old-fashioned quality that fans of fairy tales will appreciate.”
Here’s a taste of an interview with DeKeyser in Mangia Maniac Café. You can read the whole piece here. Mangia Maniac Café: How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?
DeKeyser: “I’d wanted to write a story about a mountain witch for years, ever since visiting the Italian Alps in 2000, where there are local legends about witches. But I could never figure out what her story should be.Then, in 2009, I stumbled across a mention of the Pied Piper legend, and how it may be based on real events. I’d always known that, of course, but this time I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The tragedy and lopsided cruelty of that story haunted me. Most fairy tales tend to be dark, but this is one of the few where NO ONE lives happily ever after, and NO ONE gets their comeuppance. It bothered me, and so I wanted to write my own version of the story.”
Wednesday, August 22, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Jon Mukand, author of The Man with the Bionic Brain: And Other Victories Over Paralysis (Chicago Review Press).
The Man with the Bionic Brain was Matt Nagle, a young man paralyzed at a young age in Massachusetts. With new technology, Matt was able to use Braingate to control a cursor and even a robot arm. The publisher states “Dr. Jon Mukand, Matt's research physician and a rehabilitation specialist, weaves together his story with firsthand accounts of other courageous survivors of stroke, spinal injuries, and brain trauma and the amazing technology that has improved their lives”
I just wrote about how Jon Mukand (rehabilitation medicine specialist and medical director of the Southern New England Rehabilitation Center who also serves on the clinical faculty of Brown University and Tufts University) inspired our brainy stuff table, but as I was combing our resources for new material, I was happy to spot this recommendation from none other than Edmund White.
“"This is an epic tale, a cliff-hanger, about a young athlete turned quadraplegic who is determined to walk again. As he retreats into solitude and anger and re-emerges into a love for his friends and family and a trust in his doctor, we follow all his powerful emotions. Along the way we are told stories of other remarkable recoveries, aided by modern devices. Whoever has known a stroke victim or someone who's suffered from a spinal injury should read this book for its inspiring but realistic accounts of struggle and triumph." --Edmund White, author of A Boy's Own Story and the National Book Critics Circle Award-winning Genet: A Biography.
When I describe this book, I spend a lot of time on the stories and the technology. But Booklist notes that ”in addition to the science and technology associated with the treatment of central-nervous-system injuries, the author deftly explores what it means to be disabled, including the loss of body control, dependence on others, and the collision of hope with realistic expectations for possibly inadequate healing.”
Thursday, August 23, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Pauls Toutonghi, author of Evel Knievel Days (Crown).
Khosi Saqr is half Montana mining dynasty, half Egyptian. While his friends scatter to do big things in their lives, he stays behind in Butte, Montana, docent for a mining museum, living near his Mom who is the best Middle Eastern caterer in Montanta, despite her not being the Egyptian in the family. His dad, who left the family a long time ago, is spotted back in town looking for a divorce, and Khosi is inspired to chase after him, all the way to Cairo, where he finds out a few game-changing secrets. It’s a cultural stew that mixes places, ethnicities and religions, and perhaps is just the nutritive meal Saqr needs to grow up. And for dessert? Christian-Muslim Cooperation Baklava, of course.
Diane Prokop interviewed Toutonghi at Powells in Portland. Here’s an excerpt from her interview. Read the whole interview here.
Prokop: What writers have inspired you?
Toutonghi: “Probably the biggest influence on me was Michael Ondaatje. I actually introduced him at Wordstock last year. It was amazing. The funny thing that happened was that after the reading, the handler gets him. So I’m there with him, and it was sort of clear that I could walk with him where he was going to sign. They walked him to the wrong area, so it was just me and Michael Ondaatje in an empty hall. He’s so humble, and he was like “Oh, so I guess no one wants me to sign their book.” It was cool, but it was awkward. I was so nervous, and I was going “What’s going on, why is there no one here?” I’m just like trying to make small talk, and I can’t really say, “Well, I think In the Skin of the Lion and The English Patient are the two biggest influences on my prose style.” It was great, though.
“I love Virginia Woolf and Dostoevsky, too. Those are my three main influences. I named the main character in Red Weather Yuri Mishkin, and that’s named after Prince Myshkin in Dostoevsky’s The Idiot.”
Here are Toutonghi’s liner notes from his Evel Knievel Days playlist in the Large Hearted Boy blog. It includes Ray Price, Beethoven, and The Dodos.
Friday, August 24, 7 pm, at Boswell, co-sponsored by Wisconsin Public Radio:
Michael Perry, author of Visiting Tom: A Man, a Highway, and the Road to Roughneck Grace (Harper).
We’ve aleady talked a bit about Michael Perry’s new book. It’s so hard to come up with a sixth way to write about Perry’s new story as it’s still before the release day, and thus there aren’t many trade reviews to quote. I saw that one publisher reference described the book as Bill Bryson meets Tuesdays with Morrie. I get it, but I don't know how I feel about that. Then I spent some time rereading all our materials and I found a passage in the galley letter that perfectly captures Tom Hartwig:
Saturday, August 25, 1 pm, at the Urban Ecology Center, 1500 East Park Place, as part of the Eat Local Resource Fair,co- sponsored by Outpost Natural Foods.
Terese Allen, author of The Flavor of Wisconsin for Kids (Wisconsin Historical Society Press).
Once again I turn to marketing material for inspiration. “What are some food favorites in Wisconsin, and why are they special to us? How have our landscape and the people who have inhabited it contributed to our food heritage? This unique blend of history book and cookbook gives kids a real taste for hands-on history by showing them how to create and sample foods that link us to the resources found in our state and the heritage of those who produce them.”
The Eat Local Resource Fair runs from 11 am to 3 pm (my apologies for listing the hours wrong in our recent email newsletter) and offers talks from chefs and food truck entrepreneurs alike about using local ingredients in food. There are also a number of local vendors on hand. It’s not an event designed specifically for kids, but moms and dads who are looking for food ideas will surely enjoy the presentation.
Here’s a video of Terese Allen making strawberry mini cheesecakes.