This week's posts have taken on a bit of a thematic quality. First I enthused over a music book, and then I talked up a young adult novel with a music theme. I realized that Tim Federle's new book, Five, Six, Seven, Eight! which yes, also went on sale January 21, and also is an upcoming focus of ours, is also a music book. Of course musical theater is not exactly the same as rock and roll, though there are certainly rock and roll greats who've incorporated Broadway influences in their work, and of course a number of rock legends have turned to the stage. Right, Bono?
So you all know that I fell in love with Better Nate than Ever last year, and we had a wonderful day of events with Tim Federle. You also probably know that we hosted several great school events, an evening event at the Oak Creek Library, and a very nice impromptu signing at Boswell. We almost didn't have our day with Federle, as there were some cancellations in Chicago and Minneapolis. Simon and Schuster had faith in us, however, and kept our date and we were incredibly grateful to all concerned. Especially Tim.
At our library event, we invited one of our teacher friends who coordinates schools, and said, "Hey, if you think this will work for you, we'll pitch Federle for a return visit when the sequel comes out." And she fell in love too, and Simon and said yes, and lo and behold, Tim Federle is back in Milwaukee for Five, Six, Seven, Nate! Needless to say, I devoured the sequel! You know, in a blog post like this, you just can't have too many exclamation points.
Fresh off his audition for E.T.: The Musical, Nathan Foster is cast alright, but not as star-turning Elliott. No, he’s the second understudy to the little alien himself, with a vocabulary consisting of gleeps. Worse still, he’s slowly being cut from the chorus numbers. What’s a substitute alien to do?
With Nate in New York, much of the Pennsylvania drama is put on the back burner, plotwise. We know that the family’s floral business is suffering, Dad continues to be disappointed in his less than manly son, and best-friend Libby’s mom is in treatment for cancer. Instead, the focus is much more on all the details of getting ready for a show—rehearsing and blocking and changing scripts and infighting between the choreographer and the director, a newbie who is best known for a very popular video game.
There are complications, of course. For one thing, it’s hard to make friends on the set. Elliott, played by Nate and Libby’s crosstown rival Jordan Rylance, is particularly cold, though Nate does befriend the first understudy, a little person who needs help learning her part. He also has a secret admirer! In the end, Nate’s budding identity blooms a bit, and a happy-ish ending is just around the corner. But what did you expect, a dystopian apocalypse?
Better Nate than Ever has found a great audience among adults, kids, and yes, critics. The book was named one of the best middle grade books of 2013 by Publishers Weekly, and was one of six middle grade novels to be New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice titles for the year. It's a great story for a kid who loves theater, of course, and certainly for a kid who knows he's different. There was certainly nothing like this for a kid like me.
And that's been the thing about Federele's novels. They really resonate with a lot of adults, with acclaimed Modern Family actor saying it best: ""The book I needed—and would have adored—when I was a kid. Federle writes from the heart and hits you in the gut—not to mention your funny bone."
So I've been putting the book in the hands of a lot of adults. One of them was Barry, a longtime friend, former children's bookseller and recently retired teacher who came in to shop I said, "Barry, I think you really need to read this." And here was his reaction.
"As a retired teacher he knew this book was meant for me. I read it last night and finished it this morning. I am overwhelmed by it. I am trying to figure out who to share it with... I see so many former 6th grade students in Nate. I am so excited to know the sequel will be here soon. I can't remember the last time a book moved me the way this one did. It almost makes me want to break into song!"
So we decided to do something different for our public event, because I really feel that while Tim is great with kids and yes, we're doing three schools in a day for his upcoming visit (did I mention that one school on the first tour tap danced for the author?), I will be able to get a better crowd targeting adults. And here's the other thing. After Better Nate than Ever came out, Tim also authored a book of book-themed cocktails called Tequila Mockingbird, which turned out to be a big hit. And I really wanted to feature some of these cocktails at his public event.
We brainstormed, and we teamed up with the Cream City Foundation to bring Tim to their semi-regular Cocktails with Cream City. The foundation is an umbrella organization for funding LGBT organizations, sort of a lavender United Way. The event is on Tuesday, February 4, 5:30 pm (note the time) at Art Bar, located at 722 East Burleigh, in Riverwest. But you don't have to be LGBT to come, no way! After all, Better Nate than Ever and Five, Six, Seven, Nate! are about being the best you you can be, whoever you are. And Tequila Mockingbird is about being a literary cocktail lover.
For more, here's Gregg Shapiro's interview with Tim Federle in the current issue of The Wisconsin Gazette. And for even more, here's Christian DuChateau's interview on the CNN website.
And finally, here is the charming trailer for the new book. Did I tell you that Tim's parents met at Marquette?
A reminder that our public event is at a bar, so it's for adults. I promise that if we are lucky enough to host Mr. Federle on a future book, our public event will be kid friendly.
Meanwhile, jazz hands all around. See you on February 4th.