Monday, August 30, 2010

Fairy Tales and so much more

Now that I have a small niece and nephew, I’ve become a lot more interested in children’s books. I really love the humour of the pigeon books and I can identify with some of Scaredy Squirrel’s anxieties. I’ve also recently discovered quite a few classics that I missed as a kid.

As a publisher’s sales rep I get to work with lots of enthusiastic and knowledgeable librarians and booksellers and many of them have given me great recommendations for children’s literature. I’ve also come across a couple of wonderful reference books:

1001 Children’s Book You Must Read Before You Grow Up is a British book, but includes stories from all around the world. It’s a beautiful book that's packed full of vivid colour illustrations. The book is divided into age groups (ranging from 0-3 to 12+), and is then organized chronologically within each group. Each book title has a half page description (sometimes more), the year of publication, nationality of author and illustrator, original publisher, and many include lists of other books with similar themes. Most of the books listed also feature a colour cover alongside the description and some include inside illustrations as well. I showed this book to my co-worker and she ran out and bought a copy for herself the same day.

The editor of Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children’s Book has interviewed well known Americans and asked them to name their favorite children’s book. Included in each of the 110 selections is a brief plot description, an excerpt from the book, and an explanation of why that book is so special. The list of celebrities ranges from Dave Eggers to Judy Blume and Julianne Moore. There are a lot of children’s authors included on the list of celebrities and it’s interesting to see what books inspired them when they were young.

War, Parents and Politics. . .

One of my Dewey picks for the must-read, meaty, literary novel this fall is David Grossman's To The End of the Land, translated by Jessica Cohen. It's an incredibly moving and powerful story about contemporary war told from a mother's point of view. It's set in Israel, but is a completely universal story of pain, fear and waste that reverberates through the generations. It will be available in September but the global media is already starting. There's an in-depth interview with Grossman - who tragically lost his own son while writing the novel - in The Guardian.  You can read it here.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Creative Inc. Stop Motion

This was the first book I read on the Fall 2010 list; (mostly because it was the first advance I got) but I like reading business books and like to think I am a creative soul. So when the author of Craft, Inc. decided to write Creative, Inc., a business book for freelance creative types I was sold. Because of its target audience it is very funkily designed. I have read enough business books to see that the the content is pretty right on target. And of course, being as artistic and fun as they are, they put together a super cool stop motion trailer...enjoy!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Kenk Again

Cory Doctorow has reviewed Kenk on BoingBoing, which is frequently ranked as one of the top 100 blogs out there. I think Doctorow has really nailed it; the book was a complicated one to sell (although it sold out of its first print run in 3 weeks) in Toronto. Doctorow himself had dealings with the headline states, the book humanizes him without apologizing for him. Check it out.

Winners and Finalists Announced for the 2010 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing

Congratulations to the winners & finalists of the 2010 William Saroyan Prize!

Intended to encourage new or emerging writers and honor the Saroyan literary legacy of originality, vitality and stylistic innovation, the Saroyan Prize recognizes newly published works of both fiction and non-fiction.

The two finalists for each award were:



Friday, August 20, 2010

Up We Grow!

Really how spectacular is this window...Vancouver's Kidsbooks does it again. This window is to announce the launch of Up We Grow and Stanley's Little Sister. Up We Grow is a celebration of small local farms and gives kids a sense of how wonderful and important they are. Speaking of which, this weekend we headed down to The Brickworks, Toronto's largest local farmer's market. My daughter described the peaches I bought (which were picked the day before) as a fantasy. Even though I got there at 8:30, the place was packed. If you are on the otherside of the country, you are cordially invited to the launch of Up We Grow at Kidsbooks on Thursday August 26th at 7pm. Locally yummies will be served.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

NYRB Challenge #40: The Mountain Lion Roars. . .

Having read and reviewed books by Robert Lowell's second and third wives (Elizabeth Hardwick and Caroline Blackwood respectively), it would have seemed bad manners to ignore his first, Jean Stafford. And I think she was the most talented of the three.
The Mountain Lion is a rather strange and awkward coming-of-age novel, full of subtle and uncomfortable tensions between generations and siblings. Ralph Fawcett and his younger sister Molly are rebellious allies against their widowed mother, two older sisters, and everything they represent - a world based on propriety and society's moral values, and one in which almost anything noisy, fun, or actively done outdoors is frowned upon. Two worlds are represented by two grandfathers - the dead, respectable Grandfather Bonney, whose portrait and memory are prominently alive in the household, and gruff, rugged Grandfather Kenyon, Mrs. Fawcett's step-father, who visits them annually and holds a certain mystique for Ralph and Molly, if only because their mother dislikes him so much. When he suddenly dies the first day of his visit, the children meet his son, Uncle Claude,  who invites them to visit his ranch in Colorado. They ride horses for the first time, hike in the mountains and Ralph learns to shoot.  When their mother and sisters embark on a year long trip around the world, Ralph and Molly move in with their uncle. The title of the novel refers to the elusive animal that Ralph and Claude glimpse from time to time in the mountains; it becomes a competitive obsession to kill it. (This novel would actually make an interesting read alongside Hemingway's The Snows of Kilimanjaro).

It is very much a novel of diametrics. Characters and landscapes take on deeper hues against the narrative interplay with their opposites. Kathryn Davis who contributes a very good afterword, even calls the prose part Henry James and part Mark Twain. Molly is the imaginative, fearless one who wants to be a writer, who observes the world's hypocrisies and calls people to account.  Ralph is all coiled energy, revelling and sometimes reviling, his changing physicality and emerging notions of masculinity and sexuality. The sibling relationship is by turns complicit, petulant, and dangerous. It's also one of the most complicated and compelling ones I've ever encountered in fiction. This could also be a great YA crossover book for a good teen reader.

Just a note - this edition starts with an author's introduction written many years after the book's publication, in which Stafford does reveal the book's ending, so avoid it if you don't want spoilers (and it's a fairly crucial spoiler).

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

On the Road Movie announced casting informatation about the upcoming adaptation of the Jack Kerouak book On the Road. Amy Adams, Viggo Mortensen, Kristen Stewart & Kirsten Dunst- what a cast!

Check out this link to GalleyCat which talks about the movie and includes a link to a YouTube video of a 1959 interview with Jack Kerouak on The Steve Allen Show.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Library Thingy

Book cataloguing site Library Thingy has added a tool so that publishers can now catalogue their books on the site. Check it out!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

One of the most anticipated books of the fall is Freedom, the new book by Jonathan Franzen. It's his first in the nine years since winning the National Book Award for The Corrections.

I'm not just saying this because HarperCollins is publishing the book in Canada! According to this article in PW entitled 'It's Time for Franzen', Franzen will be featured on the cover of the August 23rd issue of Time magazine- the first living author to be so featured in a decade.
PW gave it a starred review, reassuring fans of The Corrections who wondered if Freedom would be able to 'find its own voice in its predecessor’s shadow. In short: yes, it does, and in a big way.'

The book doesn't release until August 31st, but 4 lucky Dewey Diva blog readers can win a copy of the ARC ahead of time and take their names off of the holds list!

Please send an e-mail with the subject line Freedom by Jonathan Franzen to, along with the full mailing address of your library. I'll collect names until the end of day Monday August 16th and draw four winners Tuesday morning. Open to Canadian libraries only, sorry!

Good luck!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Henri Cartier-Bresson at the AIC

While in Chicago we went to the Art Institute of Chicago where we saw the exhibit Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Modern Century. We are very fortunate to represent an amazing distributor, D.A.P who represent some of the finest art publishers in the world including the MOMA who produced the book for show. Cartier-Bresson was instrumental in bringing photography to the masses and travelled all over the world honing his craft. The book and the exhibit showcase for the first time, the incredible reach he had. At the show, there was an amazing map and timeline showing how broad his travels were...very cool.

Cake Pops!

Finally Cake Pops is here! I have been totally excited about this book since I saw it listed at sales conference in April. This past weekend my daughter, niece and I made a batch. It was easier than I thought. Initally I had great expectations of making chicks and cows and such, but realised that I had better just get down the technique. The result was pretty amazing if I do say so myself. I took them to the CGTA, which is Canada's largest gift show (you can see us pictured on the right at the show). They were a big hit! Cake Pops are bite sized pieces of cake dipped in meltable chocolate or candy coating. They are a fun alternative to birthday cake or cupcakes. But they should come with a warning...the sweetness factor is off the charts!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Weekend in Chicago

Last weekend we had the pleasure of spending it in Chicago. I had been there many times for work, but not as a tourist. Of course the food was excellent and the perfect weather made it fantastic to walk around. One of my friends, Richard Bachmann, former proprietor of one of my favourite bookstores, A Different Drummer Bookstore in Burlington, grew up in Chicago's Oak Park...home of Frank Lloyd Wright and Ernest Hemingway. Richard suggested I check out The Chicago Cultural Centre which was originally Chicago's first public library. It was the absoulte highlight of the trip. For those of us who love books it is a true pilgrimage. Although the original library is no longer there, all of the stunning architecture, which is an homage to books, remains. The mosaic tiles have quotes about the love of books from authors. The dome, which is the showcase of the building (and shown above) is the largest Tiffany Dome in the world and is simply breathtaking. So if you happen to be in Chicago, make sure you stop by (admission is free). Oh and my husband met John Cusack on the Chicago moment.

Friday, August 6, 2010

NYRB Challenge #39: To Each His Own. . .

Regardless of whether you want to read Leonardo Sciascia's To Each His Own, translated by Adrienne Foulk, as a detective story, or as an astute and entertaining portrait of a small Sicilian village reacting to two murders, DO NOT read the introduction by W.S. Piero ahead of time.  Darn it all - not only did it reveal the murderer, but also (more unforgivably), gave away the ending of the book.

Manna, the town pharmacist receives an anonymous letter announcing that he is going to die as revenge for something he has done in the past. As he can't think how he's offended anyone, he nervously treats the matter as a joke. Shortly afterwards he's found shot, along with Dr. Roscio, his friend and frequent hunting companion. The murders are the talk of the town - everyone has an opinion, especially about the victims, and - as is slowly revealed - knows more than they are willing to publicly admit.  The police have no clues save a cigar end found at the scene of the crime. But our curious "sleuth" Laurana, a professor of Italian and history at the local high school, can't help investigating, more for his own intellectual enjoyment than to bring the culprits to justice. Common sense, the odd question and above all chance, are what lead him to the truth.  Sort of. As Sciascia writes:
One corrollary of all the detective novels to which a goodly share of mankind repairs for  refreshment specifies that a crime present its investigators with a picture, the material and, so to speak, stylistic elements of which, if meticulously assembled and analyzed, permit a sure solution. In actuality, however, the situation is different. The coefficients of impunity and error are high not because, or not only or not always because, the investigators are men of small intelligence but because the clues a crime offers are usually utterly inadequate. A crime, that is to say, which is planned or committed by people who have interest in working to keep the impunity coefficient high.
This is not one of those mysteries where figuring out the identity of the murderer is the prime joy, or even the point; there are few suspects and it's soon fairly obvious whodunnit. Instead, the pleasure comes in the breezy, cynical style that accepts the town's apathy towards political corruption and religious hyprocrisy as a societal given. Murder is not that shocking after all; daily life continues with a shrug.  Even Laurana comes to see the case as, "detached and distant, in style, form, and also somewhat in content delineated rather in the manner of a Graham Greene novel."  In short, the narrative has a rather cool, crafted sophistication to it, enlivened by an endearing - if naive - main character and the odd, unexpected literary reference.
NYRB has fortunately published a number of Sciascia's works; I enjoyed this novel very much and am lookng forward to reading more from this author.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Send in Some Sondheim. . .

Stephen Sondheim has just turned 80! and the BBC Proms recently had a celebratory concert.  One of the performances was given by the fabulous Judi Dench singing "Send in the Clowns".  She gives such a moving and beautiful rendition, in character from the first note to the very end  - I'm sure you could have heard a pin drop in the theatre.  Treat yourself and watch it here.

And for Sondheim fans - this fall we'll be publishing a wonderful collection of Sondheim's lyrics accompanied by commentary from all phases of his career. The subtitle says it all:  Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954-1981) with Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Whoa Nellie! . . .

I don't normally go for celebrity bios, but the terrific cover got me on this one!

Okay, if you don't know what animal Bunny was, and if a chapter entitled "The Infamous Wheelchair Episode" doesn't make you chuckle, then Confessions of A Prairie Bitch by Alison Arngrim is probably not for you.  However, if you grew up - like me - watching every episode of Little House on the Prairie and then repeatedly viewing them in re-runs (my brother and I had an ongoing contest to see who could guess which episode was airing, just from the guest star credits) and years later buying some seasons on DVD, well, this book is even better than getting a tin cup in your Christmas stocking.

Arngrim  played Laura Ingalls' whining, snobbish nemesis Nellie Oleson for seven seasons and her memoir is full of fascinating insights into what went on behind the scenes (her analysis of the characters is really funny - poor Carrie) and what it was like being a child star and living in Hollywood with two self-absorbed parents (they were both Canadian!) also in show business.  Her father who grew up in an orphanage in Saskatchewan was a publicity-obsessed manager who at one point had Liberace as a client; her mother hailed from a wealthy Vancouver family but became famous as the voice of numerous TV characters including Casper the Friendly Ghost and Davy (of that Saturday morning staple Davy and Goliath - now that's a blast from the past). In fact Arngrim writes that she based Nellie's "prissy voice and evil inflection" on "my mother's upper-crust Canadian accent".  But amidst all the surreality of showbiz, Arngrim also offers a sad and gutsy account of surviving her older brother's abuse (he repeatedly raped her from the age of six), and how inhabiting the character of Nellie gave her the strength to confront and speak up about her past.  She also talks honestly and movingly about her close friend Steve Tracy, who played her TV husband Percival Dalton, and his death from AIDS when he was only 32.   Post-Little House, Arngrim has been an activist for both AIDS research and helping children who have been abused. She also works as a stand-up comedienne and given how many times I laughed reading this book, I would love to see her show.

A candid, refreshing but never overly sentimental read.

NYRB Challenge #38: Wedding Woes. . .

Sometimes you start a book and - if you're lucky -  you'll encounter a really unique voice that immediately captures your attention (and heart) and you are prepared to blindly follow it anywhere she takes you.  Such is the voice in Dorothy Baker's wonderful novel Cassandra at the Wedding (and many thanks to Tara at Ottawa Public Library for recommending it to me).

At the start of the novel, Cassandra is planning to return to her family's ranch in preparation for her identical twin Judith's wedding. They've been apart for nine months - their longest separation - since Judith went to study music in New York and Cassie stayed at Berkeley working on her thesis. And here's how she feels about it, looking out of her apartment window at the Golden Gate Bridge:

The bridge looked good again. The sun was on it, and it took on something of the appeal of a bright exit sign in an auditorium that is crowded and airless and where you are listening to a lecture, as I so often do, that is in no way brilliant. But lectures can't all be brilliant, of course; they can be sat through and listened to for what there is in them, and if the exit sign is dazzling is can still be ignored. Besides, my guide assures me that I am not, at heart, a jumper; it's not my sort of thing. I'm given to conjecture only, and to restlessness, and I think I knew all the time I was sizing up the bridge that the strong possibility was I'd go home, attend my sister's wedding as invited, help hook-and-zip her into whatever she wore, take over the bouquet while she received the ring, through the nose or on the finger, wherever she chose to recieve it, and hold my peace when it became a question of speaking now or forever holding it. I'd go, in all likelihood, and do everything an only attendant is expected to do. I'd probably dance attendance.
It's a long quote but it illustrates all of Cassie's youthful tentativeness, tough vulnerability, and imaginative wit. She has conflicting emotions about her sister, her dead mother who was the successful writer she wants to be herself, and her somewhat eccentric and distant father. There's also her sweet grandmother who means well, but has always misjudged the twins - or so Cassie has always thought. The novel charts the few days leading up to the wedding and Cassie's drunken and dramatic attempts to stop it. Her narration is interrupted by a short chapter from Judith's perspective, but this novel belongs entirely to Cassie, and though she finally accepts Judith's decision, there's a devastating moment of confession, in which she realizes exactly what the future will hold for her married sister and it gives her the courage to make that final break.

This is a novel to get gloriously drunk on; I adored every word of it.