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December 2005
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February 2006

Harper Lee at Bama

What do you know! Here is Harper Lee, usually referred to as "the reclusive Harper Lee," attending a luncheon for high-school essayists at the University of Alabama. She  talked a bit to Ginia Bellafante, a reporter at the New York Times.

Harper Lee is, of course, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird. Over at Read Roger,  the Horn Book editor-in-chief and his readers chat about Lee's influence. Roger Sutton writes,

I think the seriousness and respect with which she explored a child's moral and creative imagination gave real freedom to all juvenile realistic fiction in the last half of the last century.

Registration is necessary to read the New York Times. Thank you to Read Roger for pointing out the article.

Wendy Wasserstein, 1950-2006

The playwright Wendy Wasserstein died of cancer this morning. I saw and enjoyed many of her plays, which always gave me something to think about. "Isn't It Romantic" was one of my favorites. In addition to her drama and essays, Wendy Wasserstein wrote a children's book, Pamela's First Musical (1996), and a novel, Elements of Style, which is due out in April. Among her survivors is her six-year-old daughter. Very sad.

Obituary, via Playbill

Chicken Spaghetti "Small Steps" Giveaway

Critics have leaped to review  Small Steps, Louis Sachar's new novel that was released only a few weeks ago. The New York Times Book Review examined the book, touted by its publisher as a "companion" to the Newbery-winning Holes, five days after its official publication date. A.O. Scott, one of the paper's film critics, said "[The characters] are easy to identify with and impossible not to root for, even if the book they inhabit feels thinly imagined in comparison with its predecessor. It is likable and readable, but it never quite emerges from the shadow of Holes." Yesterday Small Steps was the Sunday Times' pick for children's book of the week; Nicolette Jones commented,  "Although slighter than Holes, Small Steps still has Sachar’s familiar ease, intelligence, humour, suspense and humanity." Chiming in at the Washington Post, Elizabeth Ward wrote that the new book, "a straightforward, largely realistic story," does not have the same "brilliant" originality of Holes, although taken on its own merits,  Small Steps is "funny and affecting."  

So, there you have the critical take on Small Steps. Okay, now for the fun part, the  contest  announcement. Chicken Spaghetti is sponsoring a drawing on Friday, February 3rd, at noon. I will pick one name out of a hat for a free copy of Small Steps, and I'll mail it (the book, not the hat) to the winner. (We'll worry about address details, etc.,  later.)  If you want to participate, send an e-mail to the following:

(Replace the AT and the DOT with the real things.)

Music Note: Calling Mr. Mozart?

Today is the 250th birthday of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Let's celebrate. The local NPR affiliate is broadcasting lots o' Mozart all day--that's good--but I have books on the mind, as usual. Do any of you wise readers out there have recommendations for a child-friendly biography for any age: the picture-book crew, middle-graders, or hip young adults? Thank you in advance.

Tiny Little Review

The anonymous blogger known as Tiny Little Librarian writes about a picture book that sounds good: One Smart Goose, by Caroline Jayne Church.  Once you read that review, you'll want to see more of TLL's site, especially her "Cast of Characters." Yes, the cast  does include quite a few of us folks known as patrons. Apparently the head of children's services at her branch, Tiny Little Librarian is blogging from a big city, but I don't know which one.

Speaking of goose books, don't forget about the classic Petunia, by Roger Duvoisin. We get a big kick out of Petunia's bad advice to her friends at the farm.

Thanks to TangognaT for the link to TLL.

In with the New, and In with the Old

Last week the author Gail Gauthier wrote a great post on the task of the lit blogger. We need not limit ourselves to writing about new releases, she points out. I wholeheartedly agree. Otherwise, we are covering the same exact ground as newspapers, magazines, and television.

Gail Gauthier writes,

Bloggers can expand the window of opportunity for book promotion from a few months to...forever. We can bring older books to new readers. We can remind readers of books they were interested in but missed in all the pandemonium of new releases. We can expose them to books they would have never considered reading without us.

You can read the whole essay at Gail's blog, Original Content. Scroll down when you get there to the January 19th entry,  "A Mission for Litbloggers."

Recently I went into the Super Duper Bookstore and asked for Barbara Knutson's picture book Love and Roast Chicken, which a smaller publisher  issued last spring.  When the salesperson looked up the book on the computer, she said, "Oh. We never even ordered that one at all." I don't know if she meant the entire chain or just the one store. I do know that it's a wonderful book, and after reading Original Content, I plan to write a longer review of it here!

Name Your Fantasy. But Not Here.

Read Alert is sponsoring a contest. Name your favorite fantasy novel, and you might win a copy of  The Wand in the Word: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy, compiled and edited by Leonard S. Marcus. Written for kids ages 12 and up, this new anthology is due out in March from the U.S. publisher Candlewick.

Read Alert is the blog of the State Library of Victoria's Centre for Youth Literature, in Australia.