My post at E Wein Special Ops at Chachic

As I explained earlier this week, head over to Chachic’s Book Nook for for a week long celebration of Elizabeth Wein: EWein Special Ops.

Today, you’ll find my guest post: a love letter to Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity.

Yes, there are spoilers in that post.

And, for more of your reading pleasure:

My review of Code Name Verity;

My review of Rose Under Fire;

My review of The Winter Prince;

And that time I moderated a historical fantasy panel that included Elizabeth Wein.


E Wein Special Ops

This week, if you’re looking for good posts, there is only one place to look:

Chachic’s Book Nook, for a week long celebration of Elizabeth Wein: EWein Special Ops.


As Chachic explains in the opening post for this week, “EWein Special Ops is a blog event celebrating Elizabeth Wein’s wonderful novels. I have been a fan of her work for YEARS and I’ve been wanting to organize something like this for a while now. I’m glad I’m able to do it before the year ends. Watch out for guest posts from authors, fellow bloggers and fans throughout the week. On Twitter, I’m using the hashtag #EWeinSpecialOps if you want to keep track of tweets. If you’re interested in writing about anything related to EWein’s novels in your own blog at any point during this week, give me the link to the post and I’ll spread the word about it. As an aside, I love that I was able to find a picture of a younger EWein feeding a bird because I think it’s perfect for the event poster. I hope you all like it too.”

Chachic invited me to do a guest post, which will be appearing later this week. (Confession: I messed up on when I thought I had to have the post to Chachic, so owe her a big apology.) (Second confession: I cried a lot writing the post, so you can probably guess what I wrote about.)

Chachic has hosted other author celebrations, including The Queen Thief’s Week, for Megan Whalen Turner; and Marchetta Madness, for Melina Marchetta. If you did missed them, I envy you, because there is a lot of good reading there!





Flashback: December 2006

And now, a flashback to what I reviewed in December 2006!

Ishmael by Barbara Hambly. From my review: “It’s Star Trek meets Here Come the Brides. Spock winds up back in 1867 Seattle, has amnesia, meets the HCTB people. It has something to do with Klingons trying to do yadda yadda yadda….that doesn’t matter. What matters, or why this book is awesome: Nowhere in the book, including the book jacket and copyright page, is Here Come the Brides acknowledged or credited. In other words; if you don’t know, you don’t know. . . .  It’s not the only crossover in the book. I KNOW. As I was reading, there was a description of someone that sounded like Doctor Who. And then later on, I’m like, huh, that sounds like Little Joe and Hoss. Don’t believe me? Read it and weep in joy.

Clay by David Almond. From my review: “Davie is an altar boy, living in a small town in England when he first sees Stephen. Before this, it is a typical boyhood; a flirtation with a girl at school, a best friend, a rivalry with the kids from the next town that is a self described “war”. But after Stephen arrives, a strange boy living with Crazy Mary, things change. Stephen makes things out of clay. And says he can make them live. Are they alive? Davie is drawn to Stephen, to this power he has, and other things fall by the wayside. The pretty girl, his best friend. But the war with Martin “Mouldy” Mould only escalates. Stephen’s answer? Create a man of clay to take care of Mouldy. . . . Davie is Catholic; he believes in miracles and the miraculous and this story is set at a time when one may start to question those beliefs. Enter Stephen, with proof of miracles; proof of good and evil. And Davie believes; believes in Stephen’s power, even when he sees Stephen create and destroy and treat people like toys. Believes because he sees these things.”

Kampung Boy by Lat. From my review: “This is a beautiful story of a traditional, Eden-like childhood in Malaysia. It’s simple: going to school, a cousin’s wedding, sneaking away to go swimming. It’s sweet; it’s funny; and it’s full of traditions of another place and another time (it’s set in the 1950s.) It ends, as all good books about childhood end, with the main character, Mat, going away to school. There are also hints that the family may leave the Kampung for the city; that his boyhood home is truly an Eden that will vanish away forever. But Mat, with the innocence of childhood, an innocence he doesn’t know he has, doesn’t realize it.

Hello, Hello by Fumiko Takeshita, illustrated by Jun Takabatake. From my review: “How to use the telephone.

Dramacon Vol. 2 by Svetlana Chmakova. From my review: “During an anime convention, Christie, a teenage writer of online comics and manga, meets up with her crush (Matt) from last year’s convention and has assorted con adventures. LOVED IT. . . . But what really rocked my world was the semi-romance between Christie and Matt. Christie likes Matt, Matt likes Christie, but after last year they each went their separate ways. Meaning, while Christie is single she dated other guys; and Matt is now dating Emily. Oh, the deliciousness of it all, as they exchange looks, and we, like Christie, first hate Emily (just because!) and then find things to like in Emily, and then —OK, I refuse to spoil the entire storyline. Both Christie and Matt try to deal with their feelings about each other contrasted with the realities of their lives. And I loved, loved, loved every second of it.

Astonishing X Men: Gifted Vol 1 by Joss WhedonJohn Cassaday. From my review: “The X Men are putting aside from differences, getting together, and re-opening the school. It doesn’t go according to plan.

Surrender by Sonya Hartnett. From my review: “Gabriel is dying. He lies in bed, aged only twenty, his life slipping by and looks back on his life; his strict parents, his isolated town, his brother, his beloved dog, and his friendship with the Finnigan, a Huck Finn type child who is wild and unruly, the opposite of Gabriel. But nothing is what it seems; even Gabriel’s name isn’t Gabriel. Surrender is his dog; but it’s much more than that, as Gabriel surrenders to his fate.”

Witch Catcher by Mary Downing Hahn. From my review: “Jen’s widowed father inherits a castle in West Virginia; well, actually, it’s an old house that looks like a castle. And it is full of antiques and treasures and strange things; including a tower in the back, with a padlocked door. Jen, 12, cannot resist the temptation to go exploring and discovers a strange glass globe. Moura, a friend of her father’s, asks Jen if she’s seen a glass globe — a “witch catcher.” Jen doesn’t like this new woman, and doesn’t admit it’s upstairs in her room. It turns out that there is something trapped in the globe; something that looks like a girl. Jen’s cat, Tink, breaks the witch catcher, releasing what was trapped inside. Is Moura a friend, or foe? What about the witch — or thing — trapped in the globe? Who should Jen trust?

Ancient Egypt: Archaeology Unlocks the Secrets of Egypt’s Past by Jill Rubalcaba with Janice Kamrin, Consultant. From my review: “Don’t you love a title that explains it all? It’s about Egypt. Ancient Egypt. And how archaeology unlocks Egypt’s past. Including the secrets of it’s past. Sometimes it’s difficult to write these short plot summaries; other times, not so much.

Learning To Play Gin by Ally Carter. From my review: “It’s ten months since Julie and Lance got together and for two people who are dating, they barely see each other. His acting career has taken off, so he’s either filming or promoting his movies; her career has come to stand still (who wants to read a self help book about how awesome it is to be single when the writer is now in a picture perfect relationship?), so Julie spends her time renovating her house and being with her family and friends in her native Oklahoma. Julie is surprised to hear via a TV interview that Lance has bought a house in LA, and even more surprised when he asks her to go to California. She’s not sure what to do or where she belongs; but she goes. Can someone who was so good at Solitaire learn how to play Gin? Is it possible for Julie to be happy in a relationship?

Santa Knows by Cynthia & Greg Leitich Smith; illustrated by Steve Bjorkman. From my review: “Alfie F. Snorklepuss doesn’t believe in Santa Claus. He’s more than just a little annoyed when his younger sister, Noelle, insists on believing (and insists that he believe), so Alfie sets out to prove there is no Santa. When you know you’re right, you want the world to agree.

Pop! by Aury Wallington. From my review: “Marit has made a decision: she’s going to lose her virginity. She’s also going to get a boyfriend. The thing is, she has also decided that these two things have nothing to do with each other. She has a crush on the new guy at school, Noah; but she believes her nervousness about sex is getting in the way. Luckily, there’s her best friend Jamie. She doesn’t love him, but she trusts him. Things don’t always go according to plan . . .

Blood On The River: James Town 1607 by Elisa Carbone . From my review: “It’s James Town in 1607. OK, OK, you want more? It’s told by Samuel Collier (based on a real life person) is page to Captain John Smith; Sam relates the story of James Town, from the time the ships left England up till 1610. Sam’s reasons for leaving England make sense: he’s an orphan so is unwilling (he’s been made a page to Smith) but he also has no options or future in England and this journey gives him an opportunity for a future that is lacking in England.

John Smith Escapes Again! by Rosalyn Schanzer. From my review: John Smith, 1583 to 1631, is the ultimate real life escape artist, whether it’s escaping being a pirate, being a slave, or escaping jail. This biography of Smith is told via the framework of his many and varied escapes. Each escape is introduced by brief facts of Smith’s life.

The Dashwood Sisters’ Secrets Of Love by Rosie Rushton. From my review: “Modern teen version of Sense And Sensibility. Not enough for you? Three sisters find their lives changed forever when their father dies and their home is left to other relatives; in a new town, in reduced circumstances, they rebuild their lives and fall in love along the way.”

Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. From my review: “It’s been a tough year for fifteen year old DJ; with her mother working two jobs, her father injured and her two older brothers away at college, it’s up to DJ to take care of the family dairy farm. Summer should be a bit of break (DJ won’t think about how she failed English); but it’s lonely. Then Brian shows up. Brian lives in the next town over; which means he is on the football team; the rival football team. He’s also cute and popular. His coach is good friends with DJ’s family, and DJ’s family needs the help. Football is very important to DJ’s family — heck, the cows are named after football players. So since is what the coach wants, Brian helps out. DJ gives him a bit of a rough time, but who wouldn’t? Brian clearly can’t pull his weight. When DJ overhears an angry Brian telling his friends she’s a Dairy Queen — no better than the cows — DJ starts to reexamine her life, her family and her friends.

How To Ruin A Summer Vacation by Simone Elkeles. From my review: “What could be worse than your father deciding to spend time with you? What, that doesn’t sound like a bad thing? Did I mention he’s a deadbeat, barely remembering to call on birthdays? Or that he’s now decided that you’re going to spend the entire summer with him, and for some reason, your Mom has agreed? Meaning you cannot spend the summer with your best friend and your boyfriend? OK, maybe this will convince you — the sudden reason he’s all Daddy dearest is he wants to introduce you to his sick mother. Talk about playing the sympathy card! Oh, and another thing, not only have you never met this Grandmother, guess where his mother lives. Israel!! I know!! It gets worse, if you can believe it. Mom and Dad never having been married; and it’s not until you’re in Israel, outside the house, that Dad lets you know his family knows nothing about you.”

Holidays Around the World: National GeographicNational Geographic’s new Holidays Around the World series, written by Deborah Heiligman. From my review: “I enjoyed each book; each was a great introduction to kids, with just enough information to give a sense of the holiday. Each book also showed things that all kids can identify with: time spent with family, special foods, various games and other traditions.

Ptolemy’s Gate by Jonathan Stroud. From my review: “The conclusion of the Bartimaeus trilogy. Nathaniel (known publicly as John, magicians must keep their true names a secret) has achieved a position of power and prestige in the government. Life should be perfect; isn’t living well the best revenge? He justifies the abuses of the government and magicians because…. well, he is a magician! And works for the government! Maintaining his place in the world isn’t easy; Nathaniel relies heavily on Bartimaeus, a powerful (and snarky) djinni who has lost some of his strength because Nathaniel never gives him a break to return to the Other Place. Seriously; a djinni needs to recharge every now and then, but Nathaniel doesn’t allow it. Meanwhile, Kitty, a commoner with a bit of magic, continues to work for the good of the people, which means freedom from magicians like Nathaniel. Bartimaeus wishes for freedom also; freedom from being bound to Nathaniel and other magicians, freedom to return to the Other Place. It all comes to a head when a magician oversteps himself and London itself is threatened.”

The Mislaid Magician Or Ten Years AfterBeing the Private Correspondence Between Two Prominent Families Regarding a Scandal Touching the Highest Levels of Government and the Security of the Realm by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer. From my review: “Cecy and Kate are two cousins with a knack for stumbling across intrigue. They live in nineteenth century England; it’s Jane Austen meets Harry Potter; a magical world that is gentler and kinder than that of Bartimaeus and Nathaniel, but equally thrilling and dangerous. In The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, Cecy and Kate are teenagers, who save England and find husbands; in The Grand Tour, the have married the men introduced in Chocolate Pot, are touring Europe, and saving either the world or England. It’s about ten years later, and so their children also get involved in the fun. This time it has to do with protecting England and helping a magician who has been turned into a dog.”

Five For A Little One bChris Raschka. From my review: “It’s a picture book; a bunny and his five senses.”

Liftoff: A Photobiography of John Glenn by Don Mitchell. From my review: “Liftoff is not just about liftoff into space; it’s also about liftoff into a life that is about “what can I do for others” rather than “what can I do for me.””

Inexcusable by Chris Lynch. From my review: “Keir is a good kid. So he has no idea how he got in this position; basically, a girl accusing him of rape. Rape! Keir know that is inexcusable, something he would never, ever do. . . . This is not “a boy unfairly accused book,” except in Keir’s own warped version of how the the world works and his place in the world. (And sadly many people buy what Keir is selling.) In Keir, Lynch has captured a true criminal: “It’s not me” “It’s not my fault” to the point where some readers may be shocked when they realize that Keir is not innocent.”

The Beatrice Letters by Lemony Snicket. From my review: “Letters between Beatrice and Lemony Snicket. This is Lemony Snicket; there are no such things as answers, just more questions. This book explores more of the mysteries of the Baudelaire universe. Some of the letters are creased and folded notes; some are typewritten letters. The wit is in every line:All I can do is hope for the best, but hoping for the best, like hoping for a bat to obey your orders, almost always leads to disappointment.”

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green. From my review: “Colin Singleton was a child prodigy; he’s no longer a child, so what is he? Who is he? He’s someone who just graduated high school and longs to be more than a prodigy (a quick learner); he wants to be a genius (someone who actually does something.) He’s also only dated girls named Katherine (with that specific spelling); and he’s always been the person dumped. His best friend convinces him there is only one answer to his problems: Road Trip!

The Dog Den Mystery: Jack Russell: Dog Detective, # 1, The Dog Den Mystery by Darrel and Sally Odgers. From my review: “Jack (a Jack Russell terrier) lives with Sarge (a police detective) and solves crimes.

The Wand In The Word: Conversations With the Writers of Fantasy, compiled by Leonard S. Marcus. From my review: “This is an awesome collection of interviews, thirteen in total. As I read it I kept scribbling notes to myself; and if I didn’t hold back, this entry would be the longest blog post in history.”

Corbenic byCatherine Fisher. From my review: “Cal is one his way to live with his successful uncle, leaving behind, forever, his past; especially his mentally ill mother. Cal, in confusion, gets off at the wrong train stop and finds himself at a feast, where something is expected of him, but he remains silent rather than following his instinct. He awakes to find himself in an abandoned house; was the night before all in his imagination? Cal finds his way to his uncle’s house and has to determine whether he does have a quest to follow; or whether, like his mother, he is slipping into mental illness.”

Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins, illustrated by Jamie Hogan. From my review: “Naima lives in Bangladesh with her parents and her younger sister. Her father owns a rickshaw; Naima’s time at school is over because now it’s her younger sister’s turn. Naima is a talented alpana painter; but she longs to be able to help her father. Naima’s friend, Saleem, can help his father by driving their family rickshaw to both earn extra money and give his father a rest. But Naima’s family has only daughters, so her father struggles alone. What can Naima do?

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson: The Olympians, Book One) by Rick Riordan. From my review: “Percy is at his umpteenth boarding school; basically, a school for troubled kids. Percy doesn’t think of himself as troubled; he has dyslexia. And ADD. His home life — don’t even mention it. His Mom is great, but his stepdad is horrid. Yet it looks like he may have no option but to return home after he vaporizes his pre-algebra teacher. Yeah, you read right. Turns out things aren’t quite what they seem. The truth? Gods are real; at least, the Greek gods are real. Percy’s dad, his real dad, happens to be a Greek god. Percy’s powers are beginning to make themselves known, so he’s off to Camp Half Blood. Full of kids who are just like him. For the first time, Percy feels like he belongs; like he’s normal. Of course, nothing is ever as perfect as it seems…. And just who is his father, anyway?

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. From my review: “Nick’s band just finished playing their set in a NYC club when he sees his ex-girlfriend, Tris, with her new guy. Wanting to prove that he has also moved on (even tho he hasn’t) he turns to the girl standing next to him and asks, “Will you be my girlfriend for the next five minutes?” Norah, seeing the annoying groupie from school and wanting to do anything to avoid talking to her, say yes. So begins the night that Nick and Norah meet.

Inspiration Adaptation Or Something Else?

Shia LaBeouf is a twenty seven year old actor. He directed a short film which was shown in Cannes in 2012. As described in that May 2012 The Hollywood Reporter post, “Howard, the story of a film critic played by Jim Gaffigan, is LaBeouf’s own quirky critique of film critics.

LaBeuof just made that short film available online. And then what happened?

People watched. And realized that LaBeuof’s short film reminded them of something else: a short comic by Daniel Clowes.

LaBeouf, in his film and any interviews, never credited or acknowledged Clowes.

Some of the links that explain just what those similarities are, and how LaBeouf avoided crediting any writer on his short film, while implying strongly that his idea was original.

Shia LaBeouf’s movie plagiarizes Daniel Clowes, Boing Boing.

Failed Comic Book Artist Shia LaBeouf Makes Film Based on Daniel Clowes Comic Without Permission, Comics Alliance.

Shia LaBeouf Accused of Plagiarizing Cartoonist in Short Film, Wired

And then things got a bit more interesting, because LaBeouf apologized/explained via Twitter, using, well, things that we’ve heard before from people accused of copying something without giving credit.

Shia LaBeouf Apologizes After Plagiarizing Artist Daniel Clowes For His New Short Film, BuzzFeed.

And his apology included what appears to be, well, something copied from a YAHOO answers board from a few years back. No, really.

As Vanity Fair summed it up in it’s headline, Shia LaBeouf Accused of Plagiarism In His Short Film, Then Plagiarizes His Apology. Vanity Fair points out, accurately, that LaBeouf has been in the business for fifteen years and “I didn’t know” isn’t a good excuse.

Vanity Fair included something that puzzles me: “Clowes’s original comic appeared in the anthology collection The Book of Other People, a charity effort that directed all proceeds to Dave Eggers’s 826NYC non-profit. By adapting the comic without permission LaBeouf isn’t taking money away from the charity or Clowes himself; it is a fairly victimless crime of omission.”

What? If, indeed, LaBeouf has adapted Clowes’ work, OF COURSE it’s taking money from someone. The copyright page of the anthology says Clowes owns the copyright; he has the right to sell, or not sell, the film rights. Even if it is a short comic that appeared in an anthology as a fundraiser. Not to mention that any buzz, or attention, or respect that LaBeouf got from the short film was, in part, buzz, attention, and respect that should have gone Clowes’ way. And those three things mean exposure and money. They aren’t small points.

The Los Angeles Times got it right in its article, Shia LaBeouf admits Daniel Clowes’ uncredited work was ‘inspiration’: “The few minor differences . . . are what might be done in an adaptation. But they don’t come anywhere close to making LaBeouf’s work distinct from Clowes’. . . .Is it possible that LaBeouf, a 27-year-old movie star . . . has no understanding of copyright? If what LaBeouf did was an adaptation — something that perhaps may  be decided in court — it requires two things: permission and payment. Permission might not be granted. A price would have to be agreed upon. And that is all supposed to happen before filming begins.

Another observation: Yay for editors. It is Clowes’ editor — Eric Reynolds, Fantagraphics —  who is out there, bringing people’s attention to this and not taking it sitting down. As reported at BuzzFeed, Daniel Clowes Pursuing His Legal Options Regarding Shia LaBeouf’s Plagiarism. All the great quotes (and please, click through for the quotes, or why I would want Reynolds in my corner) are from Reynolds.

Could something be “inspired” by another work of art yet not rise to the level of “adaptation” requiring permissions and payment?

Would a “credit” to Clowes be enough for LaBeouf to avoid any problems?

Librarians and teachers teach students about plagiarism. Do you think this story — and the reactions, all negative towards LaBeouf — is something that will help students realize that plagiarism is wrong? 



No Girls Allowed

As you may know from reading my posts, I’m not a big fan of “girl books” and “boy books”. (As a sample of this, check out this old post, Boys, Girls, Books).

I try to ignore most of the boy book/ girl book posts and commentary.

But this latest one . . .


This is not from the world of children’s/young adult publishing. This is from the world of television.

As explained at i09, “In an interview with Kevin Smith, writer and television producer Paul Dini complained about a worrying trend he sees in television animation and superhero shows in particular: executives spurning female viewers because they believe girls and women don’t buy the shows’ toys.” The i09 article is titled Paul Dini: Superhero cartoon execs don’t want largely female audiences. (Boing Boing also posted about this.)

It’s clear that this is not the opinion of either Dini or Smith.

(The interview is from a podcast, Fatman on Batman; How To Raise a Geek originally pointed out the content, which was transcribed by Vi at agelfeygelach, and then picked up by places such as i09).

I’ll confess: I did not listen to the podcast. I’m relying on these quotes. Please click through to read the whole thing.

The basic network argument: boys buy more toys than girls, so the shows must be aimed at boys.

Because of this belief, executives don’t just want boys watching the shows. They don’t want the girls watching the shows. This is Dini’s quote: “I’ve heard executives say this, you know, not Ryan(?) but at other places, saying like, ‘We do not want girls watching this show.

See what happens when we label content boys or girls? It removes “and.” It removes the possibility that boys AND girls can watch. It makes someone, a grown up, believe, that if girls watch something …. boys won’t.

So it’s not even the show isn’t written “for girls.” It’s written to keep the girls out.

And the way to keep girls out? And make boys happy viewers?

Keep girls as “lesser.” Here, again, is Dini — not stating his beliefs but explaining what he has encountered: “we need boys, but we need girls right there, right one step behind the boys’ — this is the network talking — ‘one step behind the boys, not as smart as the boys, not as interesting as the boys, but right there.‘”

You got it: for a girl to exist in a “boy” cartoon, she cannot be as smart as the boy, they cannot be as interesting, she must, literally, be one step behind.

This is what people say boys want in their television: girls who are always not as good as boys. And so this is the world they are given: the girls will never be the smart one, the interesting one, the hero. Always the sidekick, not even the sidekick, because the sidekick is at least next to, not behind, the hero.

So, what do you think? 

Is this just marketing? A confirmation that cartoons are “only” a vehicle for selling toys, so it’s not a big deal?

Is the belief about girls and how they spend money (or, more accurately, how their parents spend money) accurate?

Is the way to get boys to enjoy something to keep girls one step behind?








Tell Me Now, I Need to Know Now

Last week, I briefly mentioned We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (Delacorte Press, 2014).

And in drafting and thinking about the actual review, I realized I needed your input.

Not just about We Were Liars; but, well, about reviews in general.

When, ideally, do you like to read a review?

Do you want to read it before the publication date?

If so, how far before?

Or, do you want it on the publication date?

Or do you want to read it after the publication date?

If so, how far after?

You can either answer here, or Click here to take survey. The survey has a couple of other questions (who you are, how you use reviews.)

I’ll use these to help decide when to schedule the reviews for the books I read.


YALSA Nonfiction Award Shortlist

YALSA’s Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults has released it’s shortlist!

YALSA’s the Hub has the list of titles, with the official annotations. Here is the list, with my comments:

The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi written by Neal Bascomb, published by Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc. Placed on hold at the local library.

Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design written by Chip Kidd, published by Workman Publishing Company. Placed on hold at the local library.

Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During World War II written by Martin W. Sandler, published by Walker Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing, Inc. Not at the local library.

Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles, America’s First Black Paratroopers written by Tanya Lee Stone, published by Candlewick Press. Placed on hold at the local library. Placed on hold at the local library.

The President Has Been Shot! The Assassination of John F. Kennedy written by James L. Swanson, published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic Inc. Placed on hold at the local library.

As you can see, I’ve read none of titles, and only 4 are at my local library.

I’ve got some work to do before the winner is announced at the Youth Media Awards at ALA’s Midwinter Meeting on January 27.

More on the Award is at the YALSA website.

YALSA is doing a Morris/NF Reading Challenge — I usually try to read all the nominated titles so will be participating in this.

A big thank you to the members of the 2014 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults award committee: Chair Jamison Hedin, Ludlow (Mass.) High School; Kathy M. Burnette, Discovery Middle School, Granger, Ind.; Molly M. Collins, Charlotte Mecklenburg (N.C.) Library; Maria E. Gentle, Arlington (Va.) Public Library; Dorcas Hand, Annunciation Orthodox School, Houston; Sarah Holtkamp, Chicago Public Library; Sherry L. Rampey, First Baptist Church of Gaston (S.C.); Scott Robins, Toronto Public Library, Ontario, Canada; and Patti Tjomsland, Bureau of Education and Research (BER) Longview, Wash; and Gillian Engberg, Booklist Consultant, Chicago, Ill

Revisited: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick. Little, Brown. 2013. Reviewed from ARC from publisher.

As promised in August, this is my spoilerific post about Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock. At this point I assume knowledge: you read Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock; you read my initial review; and/or, you don’t care about spoilers.

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is not about a shooting. While I take Leonard and his pain seriously, I don’t think he’s a murderer or a killer. At the same time, I think he was lucky — had he access to a better gun, had he any experience with shooting guns, he may have become one. But, he didn’t. And this is not a story about Leonard almost killing a boy. It’s about Leonard being alone, and depressed, and suicidal, and having no one and no resources to help him battle that.

As much as I adored this book, and as much as I don’t think books should be messages or morals, the ending is almost not enough of a resolution for me. As I mentioned in my review, Leonard is alone, depressed, and isolated. Since the entire book is his point of view, often the view we get of other characters is not how they truly are but rather how he sees them. For instance, it’s clear to me that he wants Lauren to be his Manic Pixie Dream Girl or his Stargirl, someone who somehow saves him, but she turns out to be a real flesh and blood girl and that doesn’t happen. Yet, all along, one wonders just how much Lauren is like the person he describes to the reader.

And Leonard’s mom! Leonard reveals so few actual details (and I’m someone who notes timelines and such when reading) that while it’s clear she has physically and emotionally checked out on her son by moving to New York City and running a business, it’s unclear the time line on this. Did she leave him at fourteen? Fifteen? Last month? Since Leonard’s father has left the country and the government has seized their assets, and since his mother’s background is fashion, her choice of work and workplace makes sense. Yes, she is self involved and doesn’t realize the depression her son is in; yes, she seems to have dismissed ahead of time what could help him  (she’s a “we’re not the kind of people who need therapy what would the neighbors think and it doesn’t work anyway” type); but I also wonder at what parts Leonard leaves out. Especially at the end, when she refers to “stunts” of Leonard that he himself has not told us about.

It’s not that she isn’t awful. I just wonder if she is as awful as Leonard paints her.

Asher Beal. Why does Leonard want to kill him? I was expecting bullying. I was expecting the betrayal of a lost best friend.

I was not expecting to find out that Asher was molested and raped by a beloved uncle, and that his twelve year old response was to in turn molest, abuse, rape, and manipulate Leonard for a two year period.

The horror of that is almost beyond my comprehension, and the horror I feel is both for Leonard and Asher.

Part of what scares the hell out of me about young adult books such as Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is the nightmare situations that some teens have to endure. Some adults deal with this horror by believing, ban the book. Out of sight, out of mind, and they can continue believing that kids’ lives are sweet and wonderful and trauma free. Me, I want these books for teens, for a variety of reasons. And I want them for adults as a reminder that this is the truth for some teens.

Back to Asher and Leonard. Part of Leonard’s anger at his mother is she didn’t realize the abuse was happening. Instead, if anything, she thought her son was gay. Which, you know? I can almost understand. I don’t tend to think of kids doing this to each other, when I think of abuse. And it’s further muddied by Asher being a victim, also.

Herr Silverman becomes Leonard’s lifeline. By seeing Leonard. By offering him a realistic hope, if that makes sense, in the advice of “not letting the world destroy you.” This, then, becomes Leonard’s ending: the last future letter he writes to himself is one that encourages him to believe in a future.

What I wish, though, is that it had been a bit more clear that Leonard needs more than letters to himself. Oh, there is a hint that more will happen. Herr Silverman has contacted Leonard’s mother, who both says they are not the type of people who need therapy but can afford any medicine Leonard needs. So, maybe, despite that contradiction, after the pages of the book he will get more help. Because as it is, I don’t think that Leonard just throwing away the gun, and telling someone about Asher, and writing himself a letter is enough to combat his isolation and depression.

What’s funny, though, is I also don’t like insta-cures for such complex issues. And yes, part of this is just Asher’s personality so shouldn’t be “fixed.” And I’m glad there was no easy answers offered at the end. So I’m not quite sure what more I do want, at the end.

So, your thoughts? On Leonard? His classmates? His mother? Asher?

Flashback December 2009

And now, a look back at what I was reading in December 2009!

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly. From my review: “It’s 1899, and Calpurnia Virginia Tate is twelve. Well, actually eleven. But she’s the type who thinks twelve is an acceptable answer. It’s a hot summer in Texas. Calpurnia, sometimes Callie Vee, is the middle child, with three older brothers and three younger, most named for Texas heroes. Her family is well off; as the only daughter, her mother has plans for her. Plans that include cookery and knitting and housewife skills and possibly being a debutante. It’s not what Callie wants. But what does Callie want?A chance conversation with her imposing Grandfather Tate about grasshoppers leads her science. And studying nature. And to realizing that there is more to life than her corner of Texas. But is it realistic for a girl to dream of being more than what her family wants her to be?

A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper. From my review: “1936. Sophie FitzOsborne, 16, lives with her family on the small island nation of Montmaray. She’s a princess, yes, but a princess who tends the chickens and helps keep the decaying castle in repair and takes care of her uncle, King John. Whatever fortune the family had is gone, but the titles remain, the island remains, the pride remains. How long can a royal family survive, when the the money is gone and royals outnumber the commoners? . . . The FitzOsborne cousins are a small, tight, close family. . . . The decaying of Montmaray and its royal family has happened for multiple reasons: deaths, the loss of villagers to the Great War and the influenza and emigration, loss of revenue from changing times, stock market loss, no strong leaders. A handful of teenagers are trying to maintain the only home they have ever known, not realizing how futile it is.

Flash Burnout by L.K. Madigan. From my review: “A perfect romance, written from a teenage boy’s point of view. Blake really likes Shannon, even eventually saying the “l” word. He’s trying to figure out how to be a good boyfriend, what to say, what not to say, to ignore the “advice” of his brother and friends that say, don’t be so into her, ignore her sometimes. Blake also really likes Marissa, but just as friend. And that’s true; it’s Shannon he is in love with, it’s Shannon he cannot get enough with, loves her shoulders, the feel of her skin, the way she smiles just for him. Marissa is his buddy in photography class, a friend. Want to know the difference between feeling friendship for a person and something more? It’s in the details of Blake’s interactions with and thoughts about both Shannon and Marissa. This is NOT one of those stories where the best-friend-who-is-a-girl becomes something more, or the girlfriend turns out to be a shallow undeserving bitca. It’s about three nice, likable, teenagers: Blake, a photographer who is always cracking jokes; Shannon, who plays soccer and plays the piano and is strong and sort of confident but also not quite sure how to handle her first real relationship; Marissa, a photographer, living with her grandmother and haunted by her past.

The Twelve Days of Christmas by Gennady Spirin. From my review: “You know the song: A partridge in a pear tree.”

The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook by Eleanor Davis. From my review: “Julian Calendar, eleven, outwardly looks like a nerd and inwardly is actually an ultra nerd. He’s smart, he’s inventive, he cannot help or hide it, even in his attempts to make friends at his new school. When he stops pretending, he meets Greta Hughes, outwardly a bad girl, and Ben Garza, outwardly a dumb jock. Greta and Ben are ultra nerds like him, and together they form the Secret Science Alliance. . . . This better be the start of a series! We get the origins of the SSA, including what has to be one of the best top secret laboratories and workshops in the hideouts. It’s full of stuff (including a bathroom!) and is neatly hidden from view because it’s the forgotten basement of a long-ago torn down house on a vacant lot. What’s not to love about three kids who are outsiders who are brought together by their love of science, invention, and fun? The last part of the book involves their loss of their Invention Notebook, and plan to recover it and stop a criminal that is an Oceans Eleven caper for smart tweens. Bonus points because it’s three kids, using all their smarts and invention and science skills.

The Everafter by Amy Huntley. From my review: “”I’m dead.” There is much she doesn’t remember, not even her name. But she knows that once she was alive, with a body, and now she is dead. Objects are floating….keys. Pine cone. Bracelet. Sweatshirt. Touch the sweatshirt, and suddenly she is a place, a time, a when, a where, and finally, a name. Maddy. Madison Stanton. 17. She’s dead. But why? Each object, bracelet, keys, sweatshirt, is something that, when alive, Maddy lost. Touching the object brings Maddy back to that time, that moment, and she can relive that memory again and again and again. If, in that captured moment, alive-Maddy finds the object, the door is shut and that memory cannot be revisited. So a ghost story. A dead girl revisiting her life story.

Carter Finally Gets It by Brent Crawford. From my review: “I listened to this on audio…. I have never laughed so hard. Laughed out loud. A cop followed me for five miles, convinced, I’m sure, that something was wrong with me from the laughing. Carter, Carter, Carter. I’ll admit it; I didn’t like the punk at first. I almost took the CD out during the first ten minutes. He was so annoying! Talking like a kid who has watched one too many bad music videos and believed they were real, about his boys, talking about girls like they were objects and not people. But then… something happened. I laughed at something he did (the dumbass). I cringed as he walked into a situation that I knew would not end well. And I found myself falling in love with Carter. It’s a good thing I have a 45 minute commute and kept listening, or I’d have lost out on the funniest book of the year and my Favorite Books of 2009 would be one book less. The narrator, Nick Podehl, is awe-some. His reading is energetic, totally capturing every emotion — shock, lust, disappointment, excitement, with a reading that is off the wall.

Nikki & Deja: The Newsy News Newsletter by Karen English. From my review: “Nikki and Deja decide to start a neighborhood newsletter. Problem is, what types of things can two third graders report on? Especially when they may not know the whole story?

A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner. From my review: “My non spoiler teaser. Which, really, is just me telling you: these books are fabulous on every level: plotting, characterization, setting, theme, writing. I say “sequence” because I will argue until hoarse that A Conspiracy of Kings sufficiently stands alone to be considered for those prizes and awards that demand a book not be dependent on other media, including previous books. Yet, while arguing that, I would advise those who have not yet read these books that they are best read in order. It is a deeper, richer, reading experience. . . . Three countries are at the forefront of these books: Sounis, Attolia, Eddis. In the first, a thief in one country (Sounis) is recruited to steal something of political importance from a second country (Attolia) to help the king of the first force the ruler of a third (Eddis) into an alliance. The second, third, and now fourth book continues to look at the politics and machinations as three independent countries compete for power and dominance while at the same time fighting against a fourth country, the Mede Empire.

Dinotrux by Chris Gall. From my review: “Dinosaurs that are trucks. Or is it trucks that are dinosaurs?

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. From my review: “New York City, 1979. Miranda, 12, is finding out that life isn’t what you expect it to be. One moment, you have a best friend; the next, for no good reason, he doesn’t talk to you. Mira starts to make friends with others, but the loss of her best friend, Sal, for no good reason haunts her. Soon there is another mystery to solve — mysterious, cryptic notes that appear in odd places, urging her to do something — to write a letter. Which will somehow save a life. . . .  How we see things, how Miranda sees things, makes When You Reach Me not just a mystery of notes left, but also a mystery to solve in how we navigate the world, how we see others, and how we link events to create cause/effect that are not necessarily accurate just as how there may be unintended consequences to thinks we do or don’t do. Neither the reader, nor Miranda, fully understands or sees what the story really is until the end of the book. This is true both for the mystery of the notes and the mystery of friendship.

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater. From my review: “If you like romance with a hint of supernatural, read Shiver so you’re ready for Linger in the summer. In Shiver, Grace meets Sam, a teenager who is a wolf half the year. They risk everything to be together. In Linger, the question is — what happens after your happy ending? What happens after you get the love of your life? In both books, Stiefvater explores the question of “what is family?” Is it those who raised you, or those related by blood? Is it those we are born to are those we choose? Where are ones loyalties?

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler. From my review: “Anna and Frankie are next door neighbors, best friends since babyhood. For as long as anyone can remember, the two girls, along with Frankie’s older brother, Matt, are a trio. Matt dies the summer before he was to start college. Everything changes; everyone changes. One year later, the two girls, now sixteen, prepare for summer vacation at the beach. Frankie is now more worldly, more glittery, more stunning — more boy crazy. It is she that comes up with the ideal summer vacation plan: if they are at the beach for twenty days, why not a boy a day? The twenty boy summer, to create a perfect vacation. Except Anna has a secret. . . . This is not a story about Anna’s grief. This is the story, one year later, of Anna discovering that she can fall in love again. Laugh again. And it not be a betrayal of Matt.

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose. From my review: “Montgomery, Alabama. March 1955. Claudette Colvin, fifteen, refuses to give up up her seat on a bus to a white woman — nine months before Rosa Parks’s similar refusal leads to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Why is Rosa Parks remembered, while Claudette Colvin is not?

Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline. From my review: “Young Frances, preparing for a Christmas play, observes a monkey and organ grinder. Where do they go at night, she wonders? “Somewhere,” her mother assures her. “Everyone goes somewhere.” But Frances suspects this is not so.

God Grant Me The Serenity… OK, not a review, but a look back at “that” cover!

Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr. From my review: “Samara “Sam” Taylor is not having a good summer. Everything seems broken or run down, as the heat builds. Her mother’s secret drinking is not so secret anymore, thanks to a DUI and court-mandated residential rehab. Her father is more dedicated to his work as a pastor than to being a father. Money problems may mean that Sam doesn’t go back to private school. The backyard garden is a pile of dirt; even the air conditioner and fans aren’t working properly. And then thirteen year old Jody Shaw, from her father’s congregation, who Sam kinda knows from her Church youth group, disappears. Sam is having doubts; a crisis of faith. Thinking things, wondering things, that she cannot say aloud because she’s a pastor’s kid. Everyone thinks they know who she really is; who her family really is; and thinks they have a right to say what she should think, do, believe.