Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Few Thoughts About New Kids' Books from Tom McNeal, Wendy Mass, Mark Goldblatt, Paul Rudnick, and Bill Konigsberg.

I pulled a pile of books off the floor to write about on the Boswell and Books blog, and Amie immediately looked at Far, Far Away (Knopf) from Tom McNeal and said to me, "Oh that's a great book!" The protagonist is Jeremy Johnson Johnson, living in a town called Never Better where nothing ever happens. But then lots of things start happening--like her mother takes a bite out of a special cake and runs off with another man, and his dad won't come out of his room. It really is a fairy tale of sorts, only not the one you'd expect. Here's the trailer.

Amie's also picked out Pi in the Sky (Little, Brown), by Wendy Mass. In this one, per the publisher, Joss is hte seventh son of hte Supreme Overlord of the Universe. His older brother helps his dad rule the cosmos, but all Joss gets to do is deliver pies, albeit pies that hold the secrets of the universe. Kirkus calls it The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy for kids.

That's two books in a row with a speculative edge, but I've heard realistic stories are getting hotter, what with John Green and all that. Mark Goldblatt's new Twerp (Random House) follows a kid named Julian Twerski who returns from suspension to be told by his teacher that he can get out of a Shakespeare project if he keeps a journal explaining what got him into trouble in the first place.

The book is said to be based on Goldblatt's own childhood growing up in Queens in the 1960s. Hey, that's where and when I grew up. Lots and lots of blog reviews on this one. I have started noticing that it is considered good form to say that you received an ARC (or a digital ARC) from the publisher. It's also interesting that most of them post the publisher copy and then follow up with their thoughts.

I am assuming here that you know that I didn't just purchase all these books, though it can be said that since I own the store, I did in fact purchase them. Oh, the philosophical conundrums!

One last book on the Boswell's Best I want to metion. Yes, all these books are 20% off at Boswell through at least next Monday. I'm pretty sure I haven't yet said anything about Paul Rudnick's Gorgeous (Scholastic Press). I've been a Rudnick fan from way back, still proudly displaying my hardcover copy of I'll Take It on my fiction bookcase and If You Ask Me (written under the pseudonym Libby Gelman Waxner) with my pop culture books upstairs. Who of you is not cheering that Entertainment Weekly is now printing new Waxner columns?

Gorgeous revolves around Becky Randle, a teenage girl who finds her own fairy godmother, a fashion designer who offers to create three dresses that will transform her into the "Most Beautiful Woman Who Ever Lived." It's a hard title to live up to, alas, and with the troubles come laughs, including guffaws from Meg Cabot ("when I wasn't laughing out loud, which was often, I was wiping away a tiny tear") and David Sedaris ("Rudnick is a champion of truth and love and great wicked humor, which we ignore at our peril")

Not on the Boswell's Best, but a kids' book I actually read is Openly Straight (Arthur A. Levine), by Bill Konigsberg. The book was originally recommended to me by Lisa McMann, and I was pretty taken with the premise. Here's my full rec--an abridged version made it onto the summer kids' Indie Next Picks list. 

"When Seamus Rafael Goldberg comes out at his Boulder high school, he does so in a big way. Not only does his mom become president of PFLAG, but Rafe becomes a public speaker for the cause. It turns out that being labeled in such a complete way can be not only disappointing but limiting. Rafe asks to switch to a private school in Massachusetts, effectively re-entering the closet, and finds himself one of the jocks. Rafe wants to be true to himself, but the withheld truths pile up, particularly when he finds himself in a bromance with a fellow soccer player. Konigsberg tells the backstory through a series of essays Goldberg writes for his English teacher, Mr. Scarborough. I thought his teacher was a bit intrusive, but Rafe didn’t seem to mind, so perhaps it’s just me. Openly Straight is a true-to-yourself story with a twist, a contemporary coming-out tale with a universal message, and it’s pretty romantic too."

I would have liked to have read this book as a teenager, but come to think of it, I was happy reading it now.  Better late than never, if you ask me.

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