Reading Challenges ~ Love them or Hate them?

So we are at the beginning of a whole new year and, as is their usual practice, Goodreads are encouraging users to join their Reading Challenge.  As much as I like reading challenges, this one is beginning to feel a little stale, so I started looking for something that would be more of a challenge while at the same time opening me up to new reading experiences.  Scouring the internet I came across the challenge below that I thought I would share with you, and hopefully inspire you to open up to new reading experiences as we progress through this year.  I know that reading a book from the second category on the list is really going to be a challenge for me!
reading challenge

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Five September Non-Fiction Book Releases

It’s been a while since I posted new book releases and, with fall just around the corner bringing with it cozy book reading weather, I decided now was a good a time as any to let everyone know what is coming our way in the non-fiction genre.

smokeTitle ~ Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory
Author ~ Caitlin Doughty
ISBN ~ 978-0393240238
Publisher ~ W. W. Norton & Company
Release Date ~ September 15th 2014
Description ~ A young mortician goes behind the scenes, unafraid of the gruesome (and fascinating) details of her curious profession.

Most people want to avoid thinking about death, but Caitlin Doughty—a twenty-something with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre—took a job at a crematory, turning morbid curiosity into her life’s work. Thrown into a profession of gallows humor and vivid characters (both living and very dead), Caitlin learned to navigate the secretive culture of those who care for the deceased.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes tells an unusual coming-of-age story full of bizarre encounters and unforgettable scenes. Caring for dead bodies of every color, shape, and affliction, Caitlin soon becomes an intrepid explorer in the world of the dead. She describes how she swept ashes from the machines (and sometimes onto her clothes) and reveals the strange history of cremation and undertaking, marveling at bizarre and wonderful funeral practices from different cultures.

Her eye-opening, candid, and often hilarious story is like going on a journey with your bravest friend to the cemetery at midnight. She demystifies death, leading us behind the black curtain of her unique profession. And she answers questions you didn’t know you had: Can you catch a disease from a corpse? How many dead bodies can you fit in a Dodge van? What exactly does a flaming skull look like?

Honest and heartfelt, self-deprecating and ironic, Caitlin’s engaging style makes this otherwise taboo topic both approachable and engrossing. Now a licensed mortician with an alternative funeral practice, Caitlin argues that our fear of dying warps our culture and society, and she calls for better ways of dealing with death (and our dead).

sally rideTitle ~ Sally Ride: Life on a Mission
Author ~ Sue Macy
ISBN ~ 978-1442488540
Publisher ~ Aladdin
Release Date ~ September 9th 2014
Description ~ Sally Ride was more than the first woman in space; she was a real-life explorer and adventurer whose life story is a true inspiration for all those who dream big.

Most people know Sally Ride as the first American female astronaut to travel in space. But in her lifetime she was also a nationally ranked tennis player, a physicist who enjoyed reading Shakespeare, a university professor, the founder of a company that helped inspire girls and young women to pursue careers in science and math, and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

From Sally Ride’s youth to her many groundbreaking achievements in space and beyond, Sue Macy’s riveting biography tells the story of not only a pioneering astronaut, but a leader and explorer whose life, as President Barack Obama said, demonstrates that the sky is no limit for those who dream of reaching for the stars.

unspeakableTitle ~ Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution
Author ~ Laurie Penny
ISBN ~ 978-1620406892
Publisher ~ Bloomsbury USA
Release Date ~ September 16th, 2014
Description ~ Smart, clear-eyed, and irreverent, Unspeakable Things is a fresh look at gender and power in the twenty-first century, which asks difficult questions about dissent and desire, money and masculinity, sexual violence, menial work, mental health, queer politics, and the Internet.

Celebrated journalist and activist Laurie Penny draws on a broad history of feminist thought and her own experience in radical subcultures in America and Britain to take on cultural phenomena from the Occupy movement to online dating, give her unique spin on economic justice and freedom of speech, and provide candid personal insight to rally the defensive against eating disorders, sexual assault, and internet trolls. Unspeakable Things is a book that is eye-opening not only in the critique it provides, but also in the revolutionary alternatives it imagines.

Killing pattonTitle ~ Killing Patton: The Strange Death of World War II’s Most Audacious General
Author ~ Bill O’Reilly, Martin Dugard
ISBN ~ 978-0805096682
Publisher ~ Henry Holt and Co.; First Edition
Release Date ~ September 23rd 2014
Description ~ Readers around the world have thrilled to “Killing Lincoln, Killing Kennedy,” and “Killing Jesus”–riveting works of nonfiction that journey into the heart of the most famous murders in history. Now from Bill O’Reilly, anchor of “The O’Reilly Factor,” comes the most epic book of all in this multimillion-selling series: “Killing Patton.”

General George S. Patton, Jr. died under mysterious circumstances in the months following the end of World War II. For almost seventy years, there has been suspicion that his death was not an accident–and may very well have been an act of assassination. “Killing Patton” takes readers inside the final year of the war and recounts the events surrounding Patton’s tragic demise, naming names of the many powerful individuals who wanted him silenced.

MinecraftTitle ~ Minecraft: Construction Handbook: An Official Mojang Book
Author ~ Scholastic Inc.
ISBN ~ 978-0545685177
Publisher ~ Scholastic Inc.
Release Date ~ September 30th 2014 (first published April 29th 2014)
Description ~ If you can dream it, you can build it in Minecraft! This OFFICIAL guide will give you tips and tricks on how to be a creative genius!

You can make theme parks with incredible waterslide rides, or entire pirate coves complete with galleons! Is there nothing that can’t be achieved in Minecraft? Here the experts talk you through amazing constructs which range from awe-inspiring cathedrals to wacky inventions–like the hilarious animal cannon that catapults cows out to sea! Find out which are Notch’s personal favorites and get step-by-step instructions to fuel your own creative genius. Be ORE-some!

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Guest Article: How To Play Fantasy Football, Only With Authors ~ Greg Zimmerman

Greg Zimmerman

Greg Zimmerman

I came across this article by Greg Zimmerman from The New Dork Review of Books and thought is was just the sort of thing I needed to share with those who might not otherwise see it.  I’m not sure if I could rustle up enough friends to actually play this, but it’s not going to stop me trying.  This article first appeared on Book Riot on July 30th, 2014.

“Very soon, all over the country, in suites at the Bellagio, party rooms at Hooter’s, and your mom’s basement, groups of nerds will gather for a sacred annual autumn ritual: the fantasy football draft.

But what if you could play fantasy “sports” with something less concussion-causing? Like, for instance, books!? Gather your friends, because now you you can! What follows is an outline for a fantasy authors game that promises to be both fun and infuriating — just like real fantasy football (oxymoron alert!). Of course, you can tweak this general outline however you want. Let’s get to it!

Drafting: Your league should consist of you and your seven other biggest book dorkiest friends. (So that’s 8, right? Right.) To begin, draw straws, role dice, compare your moms’ ages, or employ some other system for determining draft order. Then, take turns picking authors in that order from each of the eight groups below. Your team must have one author from each group (similar to fantasy football where you can only start one QB, two RBs, etc.) Keep in mind, you don’t have draft in the same sequence as the categories. For instance, the player with the first pick is well within his/her rights to select David Mitchell from Group C (or Stephenie Meyer from Group H, or whatever hell s/he wants to do), but s/he cannot select any other authors from Group C for the rest of the draft. Continue taking turns drafting until all authors have been selected. There are 64 authors listed, and so if you play with eight teams, that’ll mean each team consists of eight authors — again, one from each group. (We may be bookish folk here at the Riot, but if pressed, we can hold our own in the maths.)


Group A — The Rookies: 2014 Debuts
Group B — The Wizened Veterans
Edan Lepucki John Irving
Stephan Eirik Clark Philip Roth
Andy Weir Toni Morrison
Roxane Gay Cormac McCarthy
Mira Jacob Alice Munro
Alena Graedon James Salter
Tiphanie Yanique Joyce Carol Oates
Anthony Breznican Alice Walker

Group C — Future Hall of Famers Group D — Hipster Delights (“Cool” before they were cool) Group E — Foreign Fantastics (writers in translation)
Jhumpa Lahiri Dave Eggers Haruki Murakami
Jonathan Franzen Zadie Smith Amy Yamada
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Emily Gould Paulo Coelho
David Mitchell Lydia Netzer Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Donna Tartt Joshua Ferris Kyung-sook Shin
Marilynne Robinson Teju Cole Herta Müller
Richard Russo Cheryl Strayed Orhan Pamuk
Neil Gaiman Jonathan Safran Foer Amos Oz

Group F — Young Adult Adults Group G — Genre Gigantics Group H — Series Heavyweights
Rainbow Rowell Stephen King George R.R. Martin
John Green James Patterson J.K. Rowling (Robert Galbraith)
Sarah Dessen Janet Evanovich Diana Gabaldon
Marcus Zusak Catherine Coulter Daniel Silva
Gayle Forman Danielle Steele Stephenie Meyer
Veronica Roth Nora Roberts Nelson DeMille
Stephen Chbosky Dan Brown Meg Cabot
Rick Riordan Brad Thor W.E.B. Griffin

Rules for Scoring: Agree on a firm start and stop time for the game — may we suggest, totally arbitrarily, August 1st through May 31st, 2015. Scoring is based on the system below — when an author on your team fits one of the descriptions, you get the designated number of points. As in real fantasy football, draft players whose situations fit best with the scoring system. Do research. Some of these events/things we know will happen. Most we don’t. Some are longshots (more points awarded for these), some may happen weekly. So draft wisely. (Also, add your own ways to score points. These are merely suggestions.)

All judgment calls (i.e., the exact definition of “major”, is this really a feud?, etc.) are left to the discretion of the league commissioner. (You designated a league commissioner, didn’t you?) So, without further adieu, here’s how to score:

Productivity

  1. Publishes a novel — 10 points
  2. Blurbs another author’s novel — 2 points
  3. Publishes/produces other major work (non-fiction, screenplay, poetry, etc.) — 5 points
  4. Appears in another author’s book trailer — 3 points
  5. Novel adapted to movie — 8 points
    1. 10 bonus points if author cameos in movie based on his/her own novel
    2. 10 bonus points if movie wins Academy Award (any)
  6. Novel adapted to small screen — miniseries or made-for-TV movie — 5 points
  7. Publishes book review in major online or print periodical — 5 points
  8. Publishes essay, article, or other journalism in major online or print periodical — 3 points
    1. 5 bonus points if article complains about a mainstream technology like ebooks or Twitter
    2. 5 bonus points if article is about the death of the novel/reading
  9. Performs commencement speech at university graduation —10 points
  10. Announces retirement from writing — 10 points
  11. Announces unretirement from writing — 15 points

Media, Awards, and Appearances

  1. Appears on Talk/Comedy/Variety Show (eg, The View, Colbert, etc.) — 15 points
  2. Appears in interview or as subject of short expository piece on news/morning show (eg. Today, CNN, etc.) — 10 points
  3. Appears as subject in profile piece in major online or print periodical — 10 points
  4. Appears in interview on major radio show or podcast (eg. NPR Books, etc.) — 5 points
  5. Appears in a photo with you from reading or other event, like BEA — 15 points
  6. Wins major literary award — National Book Award, Pulitzer, NBCC, or Booker — 15 points
  7. Wins Nobel Prize for Literature — 25 points
  8. Appears on year-end NY Times 100 Notable Books list — 5 points
    1. 5 points bonus if it’s in the “10 best” list
  9. Photographed in celeb rag like US Weekly or People — 10 points
  10. Author donates large amount of money to charity — 5 points
    1. 5 bonus points if that charity supports literacy
  11. Throws out first pitch, does honorary coin flip (etc.) to start a sporting event — 15 points
  12. Author’s novel selected for Oprah’s Book Club — 10 points
  13. Author opens bookstore — 20 points

 Feuds, Disruptions, and Ruckuses

  1. Purposefully begins a verifiable feud with another writer, via social media, the press, or other means — 15 points.
  2. Arrested for any reason — 20 points.
  3. Develops publicly acknowledged alcohol/drug addiction — 15 points
  4. Enters treatment – 5 points
  5. Author’s novel is ridiculously banned from a school for ridiculous reasons — 15 points
  6. Becomes embroiled in a plagiarism lawsuit for someone allegedly stealing his/her own material — 20 points
  7. Becomes embroiled in a plagiarism lawsuit for allegedly stealing someone else’s material — 10 points
  8. Becomes embroiled in a memoir scandal in which facts purported to be real life are shown to be inventions – 10 points.
  9. Publicly decries (in any form) Amazon — 5 points
  10. Dates a movie star or other celebrity — 10 points
  11. Fatwa issued against author — 30 points

 Death

  1. Dies — 25 points”

Greg Zimmerman is a contributing editor for Book Riot. He blogs about contemporary literary fiction at The New Dork Review of Books and holds down a full-time gig as a trade magazine editor. Follow him on Twitter: @NewDorkReview

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Our First Anniversary Is Coming Up!!

1st anniversary

June 17th sees the first anniversary of Cate’s Book Nut Hut, and what a year it has been.  Has time has gone by there have been alterations to the site itself, and changes in the frequency of my postings so as not overload those who read the reviews.  Fittingly, the 1st anniversary is celebrated with a gift of paper, so you can all assume correctly I’ll be heading to the bookstore.

Next week the three days of posting will be given over to three Authors whose work I have reviewed in the ‘Hut’ over the past year.  I hope you enjoy their words, as much I have in not only reading their work but the pieces they have submitted for you all to read.

If there is any genre of book I’ve not covered in the past 365 days, and you would like me to take a look at a book that you think maybe interesting, just contact me with the title and I’ll take it from there.  Thank you all for sticking with me this past year, and here’s to more to come!

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10 Book sequels you probably didn’t, or wished you didn’t, know existed.

We bookish folk are a strange breed; we think nothing of eagerly looking forward to the next instalment or sequel from our favourite Authors, but moan and mutter when Hollywood brings out Mission Impossible XVI (I know we haven’t got that far yet, but it’s coming).  I’ve put together a compilation of several classic stories have strange follow-ups you’ve never heard of, or if you’ve read them may wish you hadn’t.

 

The Starlight barkingTitle ~ The Starlight Barking
Author ~ Dodie Smith
ISBN ~ 9780434964017
Publisher ~ Heinemann (October 1967)

Dodie Smith’s The Hundred and One Dalmatians, later adapted by Disney, was declared a classic when first published in 1956. The Starlight Barking, Dodie’s own long-forgotten sequel, is a thrilling new adventure for Pongo and his family. As the story opens, every living creature except dogs is gripped by an enchanted sleep. One of the original Dalmatian puppies, all grown up since the first novel, is now the Prime Minister’s mascot. Relying on her spotted parents for guidance, she assumes emergency leadership for the canine population of England. Awaiting advice from Sirius, the Dog Star, dogs of every breed crowd Trafalgar Square to watch the evening skies. The message they receive is a disturbing proposition, one that might forever destroy their status as “man’s best friend.”

Comment ~ I have to say I love this book.  The Hundred and One Dalmatians never captured my imagination as a child as much as this one; I read it so many times the cover eventually gave out, while its prequel sat untouched after on e read on my shelf.

 

MessengerTitle ~ Messenger (The Giver Quartet #3)
Author ~ Lois Lowry
ISBN ~ 9780618404414
Publisher ~ HMH Books for Young Readers (April 26th, 2004)

Strange changes are taking place in Village. Once a utopian community that prided itself on its welcome to new strangers, Village will soon be closed to all outsiders. As one of the few people able to travel through the dangerous Forest, Matty must deliver the message of Village’s closing and try to convince Seer’s daughter to return with him before its too late. But Forest has become hostile to Matty as well, and he must risk everything to fight his way through it, armed only with an emerging power he cannot yet explain or understand.

An extremely popular book for middle school students, Lois Lowry’s The Giver has become an instant classic in the 20 years since its publication. Countless children have been assigned essays about how they interpreted the book’s ambiguous ending, but they could have saved some time and just read the book’s two (with a third on the way) sequels instead.

The first sequel, Gathering Blue, is only tangentially related to The Giver by being set in the same universe. However, the following book, Messenger, ties the two together.

 

Jos BoysTitle ~ Jo’s Boys
Author ~ Louisa May Alcott
ISBN ~ 9780448060132
Publisher ~ Grosset & Dunlap (October 1st, 1949: First published 1880)

Better known for her novels Little Women and Little Men, Louisa May Alcott continued the story of her feisty protagonist Jo in this final novel chronicling the adventures and misadventures of the March family. Entertaining, surprising, and overall a joy to read, Jo’s Boys is nevertheless shaded by a bittersweet tone, for with it Alcott brought her wonderful series to an end.

Beginning ten years after Little Men, Jo’s Boys revisits Plumfield, the New England school still presided over by Jo and her husband, Professor Bhaer. Jo’s boys — including rebellious Dan, sailor Emil, and promising musician Nat — are grown; Jo herself remains at the center of this tale, holding her boys fast through shipwreck and storm, disappointment… and even murder.

Popular for more than a century, the series that began with Little Women continues to hold universal appeal with its powerful and affectionate depiction of family — the safe haven where the prodigal can always return, adversity is never met alone, and our dreams of being cherished, no matter what our flaws, come true.

Comment ~ This series was another well loved set of books on my childhood bookcase, and I remember crying almost to the point of hysterics when I came to the end of Jo’s Boys knowing there would be no more.

 

Closing timeTitle ~ Closing Time
Author ~ Joseph Heller
ISBN ~ 9780671746049
Publisher ~ Simon & Schuster (October 1st, 1994)

Thirty-three years and over ten million copies later…the classic story continues.

Yossarian returns — older, if not wiser — to face a new foe.

An instant classic when published in 1961, Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 still ranks among the funniest — and most serious — novels ever written about war. Now Heller has dared to write the sequel to his 10-million copy bestseller, using many of Catch-22’s characters to deftly satirize the realities and the myths of America in the half century since they fought World War II.

In Closing Time, a comic masterpiece in its own right, Heller spears the inflated balloons of our national consciousness — the absurdity of our politics, the decline of society and our great cities, the greed and hypocrisy of our business and culture — with the same ferocious humor that he used against the conventional view of warfare. Back again are characters familiar from Catch-22, including Yossarian and Milo Minderbinder, the chaplain, and little Sammy Singer, as they come to the end of their lives and the end of the century — all linked, this time, in uneasy peace and old age…fighting not the Germans, but The End.

Outrageously funny and totally serious, and as brilliant and successful as Catch-22 itself, Closing Time is a fun-house mirror that captures, at once grotesquely and accurately, the truth about ourselves

 

Paradise RegainedTitle ~ Paradise Regained
Author ~ John Milton
ISBN ~ 9781598181678
Publisher ~ Aegypan (December 1st, 2006)

In purely poetic value, “Paradise Regained” is little inferior to its predecessor. There may be nothing in the poem that can quite touch the first two books of “Paradise Lost” for magnificence; but there are several things that may fairly be set beside almost anything in the last ten. The splendid “stand at bay” of the discovered tempter — “‘Tis true I am that spirit unfortunate” — in the first book; his rebuke of Belial in the second, and the picture of the magic banquet (it must be remembered that, though it is customary to extol Milton’s asceticism, the story of his remark to his third wife, and the Lawrence and Skinner sonnets, go the other way); above all, the panoramas from the mountaintop in the third and fourth; the terrors of the night of storm; the crisis on the pinnacle of the temple — are quite of the best Milton, which is equivalent to saying that they are of the best of one kind of poetry. — The Cambridge History of English and American Literature.

Comment ~ I have to admit I’ve not read either of these; maybe I need to rectify this.

 

Tom SawyerTitle ~ Tom Sawyer, Detective
Author ~ Mark Twain
ISBN ~ 9781598184891
Publisher ~ Aegypan (August 1st, 2006: first published 1896)

“Well, it was the next spring after me and Tom Sawyer set our old nigger Jim free, the time he was chained up for a runaway slave down there on Tom’s uncle Silas’s farm in Arkansaw. The frost was working out of the ground, and out of the air, too, and it was getting closer and closer onto barefoot time every day; and next it would be marble time, and next mumblety-peg, and next tops and hoops, and next kites, and then right away it would be summer and going in a-swimming. It just makes a boy homesick to look ahead like that and see how far off summer is. . . .” Huck Finn tells the tale in “Tom Sawyer, Detective” almost playing the role of a reporter, as he relates what he’s witnessed of a strangely peculiar murder, and tells us of Tom Sawyer’s scene-stealing exploits in the trial that follows. . . . Many of the characters “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” return in this tale, with delightful results

Comment ~ I was not aware there was a series, and enjoyed the Huckleberry Finn and first Tom Sawyer books.  These will now be on my to read list.

 

The winds of taraTitle ~ The Winds of Tara
Author ~ Katherine Pinotti
ISBN ~ 9781401063573
Publisher ~

The Unauthorised Sequel.

The most infamous love affair of all times continues on with The Winds of Tara.

Scarlett O’Hara, headstrong and beautiful, contrives to win back the love of her estranged husband and children. Broken hearted, she returns home to Tara, only to find the plantation in jeopardy by a greedy overseer and her sister’s reputation threatened. Determined to succeed against overwhelming odds, she spins a web of lies and deceit that force her to choose between the man she loves, and breaking a solemn promise that would expose a secret that could destroy her family’s honor forever.

Margaret Mitchell’s beloved Southern romance was not only one of the most famous books of the last century, but also spawned one of the most popular films to boot. The book has four sequels, with varying levels of authenticity. The first, Scarlett, was an authorized sequel by Alexandra Ripley and was widely panned. A second that ignores Scarlett, Rhett Butler’s People, is a re-telling of the original novel from Butler’s point of view by author Donald McCraig.

Then there are the unauthorized sequels: The Wind Done Gone by Alice Randall is a satirical re-telling from the perspective of an O’Hara family slave. Finally, The Winds of Tara by Katherine Pinotti is a direct sequel to the original that the Mitchell family legally blocked from publication in America.

 

The second jungle bookTitle ~ The Second Jungle Book
Author ~ Rudyard Kipling
ISBN ~ 9781853261350
Publisher ~ Wordsworth Classics (1994: first published 1895)

Mowgli, the man-cub who is raised by a wolf-pack, is the main character in The Second Jungle Book which contains some of the most thrilling of the Mowgli stories. It includes “Red Dog”, in which Mowgli and the python Kaa form an unlikely alliance, “How Fear Came” and “Letting in the Jungle” as well as “The Spring Running”, which brings Mowgli to manhood and the realisation that he must leave Bagheera, Baloo, and his other friends for the world of man.

Between each of these marvellously powerful stories Kipling includes some of his most stirring ballads and songs, notably “Mowgli’s Song Against People” and “The Law of the Jungle”

A year after The Jungle Book’s release, Kipling wrote a follow-up book called The Second Jungle Book, featuring five further adventures of Mowgli and his friends. Although Disney made an animated Jungle Book 2 and a live-action film called The Second Jungle Book: Mowgli and Baloo, neither actually follows the plot of The Second Jungle Book.

 

The last ring bearerTitle ~ The Last Ring-Bearer
Author ~ Kirill Yeskov, Yisroel Markov (translator)
ISBN ~
Publisher ~ (2010: first published 1990)

The premise of The Last Ring-Bearer is the proverb “history is written by the victors”, and that the Tolkien account is just that – the history as dictated by the victorious side. In Eskov’s version of the story, Mordor is described as a peaceful country on the verge of an industrial revolution that is a threat to the war-mongering and imperialistic faction represented by Gandalf (whose attitude has been described by Saruman as “crafting the Final Solution to the Mordorian problem”) and the elves.

The story of The Last Ring-Bearer begins at the end of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, as survivors of the defeated Mordor are organizing resistance and trying to save what they can of their civilization. Their story is mixed with another one, set hundreds of years in the future, as archaeologists in a “modern day Middle-earth” are rediscovering their true history, and finding artefacts that shine doubt on the established history known to us from The Lord of the Rings

Comment ~ To be reviewed in 2014

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National Reading Month

bk_home_small Kate DiCamillo

March is National Reading Month and March 5th was World Read Aloud Day, so I thought I would share this interview with you from Kate DiCamillo, a children’s book author that I thought you would enjoy.  The original interview was written by Seira Wilson of Omnivoracious.

“Probably best known for her novels Because of Winn-Dixie and The Tale of Despereaux, DiCamillo has had quite a year already.  At the start of 2014 she was named the new National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, a post voted on by a panel of booksellers, the Children’s Book Council, and the Library of Congress.  Then when the Newbery award winners were announced at the end of January, DiCamillo took home the medal for Flora & Ulysses (an Amazon Best Children’s Book of 2013), marking her third time as a Newbery recipient (she won the medal for Tales of Despereaux in 2004 and an honor for Because of Winn-Dixie in 2001).  DiCamillo is a powerhouse advocate for reading and getting books into the hands of children and, as you’ll see in her post below, she does it with immense grace, gratitude, and always a touch of humor.

When I was nine years old, my mother checked Beverly Cleary’s Ribsy out of the public library, and read the book aloud to my brother and me.  We read a few chapters of the story every night.  The three of us sat side by side on the flowered sectional couch in the Florida room.  The Florida room had orange shag carpet.  Its walls were paneled in cypress, and we could see Lake Minnehaha from the large bank of windows that faced south.

On the floor, stretched out parallel to the couch, was our dog Nanette.  Nanette’s flank rose and fell as my mother read, and the dog would raise her head off the floor and look at us every time we laughed. 

We laughed a lot. 

Ribsy is a funny book.

There was a lamp by the couch.  And as the darkness outside grew darker, as the lake disappeared into the sky, as more of the story got told, the light by the couch seemed to grow brighter.

We were a pack of four: my mother, my brother, the dog and me.  In the book, Ribsy the dog was lost.  But we were all safe inside.  We were together.

That was over four decades ago.

Nanette is gone and my mother is gone.  My brother and I live far away from each other. 

But every time I see the cover of that book, every time I see a picture of Ribsy, I am transported back to that time, to that cypress-paneled room, to the flowered couch, to the lamp and the laughter and the safety.

Reading together is a very particular kind of magic.

When I meet teachers and librarians who tell me that they read aloud to their classrooms, I always try to make a point of thanking them.

Reading a story together brings us together: large groups, small groups, packs of four and packs of two.  When we read together, we come in from the darkness, the cold.

It occurs to me as I write these words, as I remember the darkness outside that room in Florida, that I never explicitly thanked my mother for reading to us.

So, I will thank her here, now, in the best way I can, by encouraging other people to do what she did for me, and for my brother.

I will ask you to read aloud to your students, your children.  Read aloud to your husband, your wife.  Read aloud to your dog.

Push back the darkness.

Sit down beside somebody you love. 

Turn on a light.  Open a book.

Kate DiCamillo

All rights and credits for this article belong to Seira Wilson, Onmivoracious

Bite-sized Scares

scary

I’ve noticed recently that the internet has been buzzing with the latest in horror fiction; that is the two sentence kind of fiction not the full blown novel.  Courtesy of salon.com, here six novelists try their hand at what is fast becoming a new subgenre.  Some may chill you and others may make you shrug your shoulders; hopefully there’s something here that most will like.

 

It wasn’t what you’d expect, how she knew she was never truly alone. It was the damp trail of moisture she sometimes found–along the arch of her spine, across her shoulders, between her breasts — that let her know he was there.

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Could it be that he really did remember to put the chains on the truck tires, that she came back from the valley with the baby formula as expected, in spite of the freak snowstorm, and nursed the child, nursed him that night and each night for the next three months at the appointed hour, the hour when once again tonight he feels her hand on his shoulder and rouses from sleep to find her standing over him, blankly beseeching, wondering where the child has gone, not realizing that the child is living with her parents now, that he couldn’t raise the child on his own, that he has since that night been incapable even of cooking his own meals in this empty cottage in the woods at the top of the hill their trucked slipped and swerved on, and off of which it tumbled in the snow all the way to the creek below; could it be that he has dreamed these terrible months of loneliness and guilt, that this is not her ghost, that this hand is corporeal, that the cold bed is an illusion and she has touched him only to acknowledge him as she rises to gather the child from the crib?
No, apparently not.

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When I was 9, the birds stopped still in the sky and I saw the men that move between moments. They sang silently as they prepared the lake where my little sister was about to drown.

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Because my mom was moving houses, she made me come over and go through all my childhood stuff. When I got home, the Raggedy Ann I’d bagged up to be tossed was sitting upright on my bed, smelling of smoke, with her hair half burnt and a charred smile that looked like it meant me no good.

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The Murder House Tour is bullshit: the House of the Crazed Chiropractor, the House of the Fallen Weatherman, the House of the Ill-Informed Doomsday Cult. The last stop is a prefab, modern and obviously brand -new, and I ask, “Who was murdered here?” right before the screams.

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Entranced, he followed her to her door and after she’d gone in, peeked through the keyhole, seeing only what seemed like a deep red lake. Only later did he learn ghosts’ eyes are red.

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