Thursday, March 31, 2011

Books of Wonder

     As I mentioned last week, I will be making my first author appearance for an event called Fantastic Fiction for Teens and Tweens at Books of Wonder, on 18th Street between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue, from 12:00-2:00.  I'll be on a panel of authors including Brandon Mull and Peter Moore and then we will be signing books.  If you're interested and in the area, please come by.  While you're there, stop across the street at City Bakery for the best hot chocolate in New York City.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Barnes and Noble and Me

     The publishing date for my book Those That Wake hit a couple of days ago (March 21st to be exact).  Naturally, I went to the largest bookstore in my area (a Barnes and Noble, of course) to get a gander at it sitting on the shelves with all those other real books by real authors.  Wasn't there, though, so I inquired of the lady at the information desk.  Not in stock, she told me.  Do any other Barnes and Nobles in the area have it, I ask.  No, she says, no Barnes and Noble in New York City has it in stock.
     I do some looking around on the Barnes and Noble website, checking my book's availability at various stores around the country.  It's not in any of them.
    Now, I'm very pleased to say that Those That Wake is available from various online sources including, might I add, the Barnes and Noble website.  I'm also very happy to say that I have seen it on the shelves of a few smaller, independent bookstores.  I have also, by now, spoken to the various powers that be and I am told that Barnes and Noble does plan to stock my book.  When?  Can't say.  Why haven't they yet?  That's what I'm wondering about.  As difficult as it is being beholden to a corporate giant, they are the biggest book seller in America.  Also, while I am a bit paranoid (or so my friends and those who have read my book tell me), I am not so far gone that I feel like my book is the only book this has ever happened to.  It just makes me wonder why Barnes and Noble has gone this way.  Rather than projecting reasons (including that it could, of course, just have been a simple slip up), I'll simply suggest that there are lots of things that corporations are deciding for us, about what we get to see and when, that we know nothing about.  Whether you have a direct, vested interest in this (as I admittedly do) or not, the idea that these decisions might be getting made for us seems worth mulling over.
     At any rate, if you are interested in reading Those That Wake, please have a look at your nearest independent bookstore.  If there isn't one near you, some of them are online and are happy to ship to you -- like this one.  Heck, you could even do that after Barnes and Noble has it on their shelves, too.
     Meanwhile, speaking of independent bookstores, I'm due for my first public appearance, on a YA author panel, at New York City's Books of Wonder on Saturday, April 2nd from 12-2 pm.  If you're in the area, please drop by.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Donut Chef

     Donuts are fantastic, but books about donuts have the advantage of containing no calories (at least not when you just read them).  The best I've ever come across is The Donut Chef by Bob Staake.  Staake has growing oeuvre of standout picture books, but this one (along with The Red Lemon) is his best.  On the surface, it's the tale of a jolly donut chef who wants to delight the world with his confections, but winds up in a duel of crazy donut flavors with a shifty competitor, until he learns that simplicity makes for the greatest delights.  The deeper theme of competing with a hyper-stimulated world is a potent one, too, and one that's near to my own heart.
     In any case, it's Staake's art that makes this book sing.  His geometric figures, deco swooshes and bright, evocative colors crackle with an energy like nothing else out there.  He feels like a very worthy torchbearer for the one and only Dr. Seuss.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Go, Librarians!

     I'll start off by saying that I'm a librarian and many of my best friends are librarians, so my bias should be clear.  Nevertheless, you sometimes have an experience that gives you a larger perspective on something very close to you.
     I spoke to the New York City School Librarians Association yesterday on the subject of using graphic novels in literacy education.  Though I am used to trafficking among them (librarians, that is), speaking with a new group really stirred up that old sense of pride.  Each and every one was curious, engaged and committed to advancing her own professional development and the development of the profession itself.
     I have always considered librarianship, in its ideal form, as a commitment to the availability of information (in all its myriad forms of transmission) to everyone.  But in our hyper-connected era, where availability of information seems to come automatically with the Internet (and I do mean "seems"), you often hear the cry that the profession is becoming outmoded, obsolete.  Working among, speaking to and hearing from librarians who do a far sight more than I do everyday, let me categorically state that I've never met or heard of a group that does more to expand our ability to function in an information-driven culture, to help people understand the information they're getting in new ways, or to bring new and worthwhile kinds of information to resistant communities.
     Far from librarians being obsolete, I'm afraid to imagine the future without them.    

Thursday, March 3, 2011


     I was thinking about last week's post, noodling around the internet and pursuing my fascination with evil twins and doppelgangers, and I came upon something so bizarre, so flat out nutso, it could only be real.  Turns out there is a psychological condition called Capgras Delusion.  Patients suffering from this believe that their friends and family -- those closest to them -- have been replaced by identical impostors.  Since the first documented case of this seems to have been in 1923 -- well before Invasion of the Body Snatchers -- it means that our own brains produced it without any seeds planted from the world of mass media.  Just how crazy are we?  Until now, I thought the extreme of psychological breakdown was represented by M√ľnchausen syndrome by proxy (so ably depicted in The Sixth Sense), but I've adopted a whole new outlook on crazy now.
     Twins and doubles have a deep. archetypal resonance.  They pop up again and again in literature (try Dostoyevsky's The Double), film (try The Broken) and everything in between.  Maybe we find them a little bit too fascinating.