I’m about half an hour early in celebrating the release day for this book, but just couldn’t wait for it to be officially June 8th. 

Why the excitement?

For starters, SETH BAUMGARTNER’S LOVE MANIFESTO by Eric Luper is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read — snorting, laugh-out-loud, funny. But what makes it even more terrific is that the humor is mixed with drama, hope, and the kind of heartbreak that only comes with being a teenager in love.

Poor Seth is having a rough day when the book opens. His girlfriend has just dumped him during her dinner break from work, and across the restaurant, he’s just spotted his father on a date with a woman who is most definitely not his mother. The fact that all of this happens at Applebee’s somehow adds to the sting.

As Seth nurses his own relationship wounds and tries to get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding his father’s…(mistress? Is that what she is?)…he decides to explore the very nature of love itself by starting his own podcast on the topic. The podcasts are as witty and insightful and wonderful as the perfectly imperfect characters in this YA romantic comedy.  It is just all-around brilliant and great fun, too. And did I mention there’s golf?  And really bad chicken salad sandwiches?

Eric is one of my writing critique partners, but I’d love this book whether I knew him or not.  It’s one of those YA novels, in the spirit of John Green and David Levithan, that both boys and girls are going to love. Available today (yay!!!) from Balzer and Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins.

And one more note…Eric is running a very cool contest to celebrate Seth’s arrival in the world. You can win books, audiobooks, an iPod shuffle, and great things like that. Click here for information on how to enter.

Books I’ve Loved Lately

I’ve been deep in the depths of revision for the past few weeks — polishing up a picture book and a middle grade mystery.  They are both done (*pause for cheering & confetti here*) and on submission now, and I have big plans for a post-revision reading binge. But before I do that, I want to talk about a handful of books I’ve read lately that you might like, too.  Ready?

Amy Ignatow’s THE POPULARITY PAPERS: RESEARCH FOR THE SOCIAL IMPROVEMENT AND GENERAL BETTERMENT OF LYDIA GOLDBLATT AND JULIE GRAHAM CHANG is the book to hand to your girls who are fans of the Wimpy Kid series.  It’s that same diary/graphic novel blend that keeps even reluctant readers turning pages and laughing like crazy.  Interestingly enough, the main characters in this are in fifth grade, but it’s going over really well with some of my 7th grade girls, even though they’re a bit older.  (Due out from Amulet April 1st)

I can’t keep Lisa Schroeder’s CHASING BROOKLYN on my classroom library shelf – it’s one of those books that gets handed from kid to kid in the cafeteria and never makes it all the way back to my classroom, and that’s just fine.  I understand why the kids love it, too.  Set at the same high school as Lisa’s I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME, her latest YA novel-in-verse is about love and loss, remembering and moving forward. It left me in tears, but they were good ones – the kind you cry when you’ve just read an amazing book that’s full of sorrow and beauty and hope all at once. It’s a a beautiful, beautiful book. (Available now from Simon & Schuster)

Fans of Jerry Spinelli’s MILKWEED and Lois Lowry’s NUMBER THE STARS will love ONCE by Morris Gleitzman.  One of my 7th grade students absolutely devours historical fiction set during the Holocaust, and she was waiting for this ARC, standing at my desk, tapping her foot as I turned the last page.

The main character, Felix, begins the story as a unique (and heartbreaking) unreliable narrator. He’s a Jewish boy, hidden in a Catholic orphanage, and utterly unaware of the danger he’s facing. When he sets out to find his parents, he sees evidence of the Nazis destruction but misinterprets much of it, placing himself squarely in harm’s way. Ultimately, though, he’s faced with too much reality to go on believing the stories he’s told himself, and from there, the book chronicles his loss of innocence and his coming of age in the worst of times. It’s beautifully written and though like many books set during the Holocaust, it’s tough to read at times, it’s certainly not without hope.  Highly recommended, it comes out from Henry Holt March 30th.

The premise is simple and kind of horrifying: A 7th grader climbs up into a tree and says he’s not coming down because there’s really no meaning in life anyway. His classmates, u…more So let’s talk about NOTHING by Janne Teller now.  I couldn’t decide at first if I should include this in a post about "books I love" because it’s hard for me to say that I loved this story.  I was mostly horrified by it.  But is it brilliantly well-written? And smart? And thought-provoking? Yes, yes, and yes. Plus, there’s the fact that I finished it a few weeks ago, and here I am still thinking about it, so that means something, too.

The premise is simple and troubling: A 7th grader climbs up into a tree and says he’s not coming down because there’s really no meaning in life anyway. His classmates, unsettled by his proclamation and desperate to make him come down out of that tree, begin to assemble a collection of "meaning," a heap of items… sacrifices, really…that they hope will convince the kid once and for all that there is meaning. The sacrifices start with simple, treasured kid-things and escalate in nature to the truly chilling.

This could make a very, very good literature circles choice for older middle school or high school kids. There’s sure plenty to talk about, and it’s like nothing I’ve ever read, except maybe Lord of the Flies. If you read it, I’d really love to hear what you think. (out now from Atheneum)

And finally, on a far more cheerful note…

This picture book from the author of the DAY-GLO BROTHERS is one of the funniest I’ve read in a long time. The premise is simple – two boys pull toys from a toy box and start a battle with them. One has a shark, the other a train, and the result is a hilarious series of competitions in which Shark and Train face off in everything from high-diving to trick-or-treating. Laugh-out-loud text with fun, lively illustrations and a lot of little details in the art that add another layer of humor for moms and dads reading aloud. Loved it!  (Coming from Little, Brown in April.)

Now I’m reading this…

An ARC of Holly Black’s WHITE CAT (coming from Margaret K. McElderry May 4th), and let me tell you… that Holly Black knows how to get a reader’s attention from page one –   Loving it so far!

What have you read & loved lately?  Anything I need to add to my post-revision reading binge pile?

Get this book for your mom. Or your daughter. Or yourself…

So I think this has to be one of my favorite books ever. 


Full disclosure – I know Jeannine and heard her read a poem from this book at a writers retreat last summer. It was lovely and poignant, but when she described the book as a collection of poems about Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C.J. Walker, Marie Curie, and their daughters, I wondered a bit how that could all fit together.

Then I was lucky enough to pick up an advance copy of BORROWED NAMES at ALA Midwinter, and I understood.

It does fit. As beautifully as anything I’ve ever read.

The poetry in this book is magnificent by itself, but it’s the characterization of the women — mothers and daughters both — that makes it stand out even more. The verse shines with the creative spirit of all of these amazing women, and I really can’t imagine capturing the whole give-and-take, come-together-and-go-away moments of mothers and daughters any better.

I’m sitting here at my computer frowning because I can’t really make my words do justice to this special book.  But trust me. It’s being released from Henry Holt this week.  Just go get it.

(Unless you are my mom, in which case…don’t go get it. I sent you one because I couldn’t wait for Mother’s Day. It will probably be there on Thursday or Friday. You’re going to love this as much as I did.)

Great Books Coming in 2010: DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS by C.J. Omololu

Book by book, I’m reading and recommending my way through the fantastic ARCs I picked up at NCTE. I had been looking forward to C.J. Omololu’s YA novel DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS for two reasons. First, I know Cynthia online and had read about her book sale. And second, my Walker editor  Mary Kate is also the editor of this book, and I know how excited she is about it. I read DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS in a single sitting — on the plane home from NCTE, actually — and it kept me turning pages long after I should have been sleeping.  

It’s a great, compelling read. This YA novel takes place over a mere 24 hours, but what a 24 hours it is. It’s the day when everything changes for Lucy, a girl whose mother is a compulsive hoarder. For years, that fact has shaped her life. She’s worried about the smells of her family’s kitchen following her out of the house, worried about friends who invite her to sleep over when she can never reciprocate, and worried that someone will learn her family’s dirty little secret. In the very early pages of this novel, a tragic turn forces Lucy to make a decision about how to handle her mother’s hoarding…and her own future.

Powerful and page-turning, this book would be a great choice for literature circles in grades 7 and up, particularly because it has an ending that will get readers talking in a big way. I still can’t stop thinking about it. Highly recommended.

Because I loved too many 2009 books to have a Top Ten…

Here is a big, whomping list of 2009 titles that I read and loved. They’re linked to my reviews, author interviews, or IndieBound, and sorted in ways that I hope will help you buy them for holiday gifts. Everyone needs books. Especially these…

For your dystopian fiction fan…
CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins (but you already knew about that one, huh?)
CANDOR by Pam Bachorz
GENESIS by Bernard Beckett
GIRL IN THE ARENA by Lise Haines

For your supernatural romance fan…
NEED by Carrie Jones
HUSH, HUSH by Becca Fitzpatrick
SHIVER by Maggie Stiefvater
WINGS by Aprilynne Pike

For your middle grade fantasy & fairy tale lover…
ASH by Malinda Lo
THE DRAGON OF TRELIAN by Michelle Knudsen

For fans of historical fiction…
RIOT by Walter Dean Myers
WINNIE’S WAR by Jenny Moss
DAY OF THE PELICAN by Katherine Paterson
THE STORM IN THE BARN by Matt Phelan (magical, historical graphic novel!)
(and these last two are for older HF fans…)
FLYGIRL by Sherri L. Smith
BUG BOY by Eric Luper

For YA readers who enjoy a good cry…
20 BOY SUMMER by Sarah Ockler
IF I STAY by Gayle Forman

For coffee-shop romance lovers… (How’s that for a distinctive category?)
COFFEEHOUSE ANGEL by Suzanne Selfors
THE ESPRESSOLOGIST by Kristina Springer

For fans of realistic YA fiction…
ONCE WAS LOST by Sara Zarr
WINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson
HATE LIST by Jennifer Brown
PURGE by Sarah Darer Littman
HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT by Natalie Standiford

For tween readers…
SCAT by Carl Hiaassen
OPERATION YES by Sara Lewis Holmes
WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead
ANYTHING BUT TYPICAL by Nora Raleigh Baskin
11 BIRTHDAYS by Wendy Mass

For fans of nonfiction…
MARCHING FOR FREEDOM by Elizabeth Partridge

For your older teen reader ready for adult books…
THE MAGICIANS by Lev Grossman

For the teacher in your life…
THE BOOK WHISPERER by Donalyn Miller

Are you still here? What are you waiting for? Go on… Get book-shopping!

Great Books Coming in 2010: WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON

When I attended NCTE last month, I came home with a pile of advance reader copies of 2010 novels. (So many, in fact, that at one point, the bag in which I was carrying them exploded in a rather spectacular fashion, strewing ARCs in about a ten foot radius around the conference center floor, but that is a whole ‘nother story.)

Anyway, because I understand how important these early copies are to authors and publishers and because I know they cost a lot to produce, I only take them with a promise to myself to share recommendations wherever I can. So this will be the first in a long-ish series of bookish thoughts from NCTE. All are from review copies supplied by publishers unless otherwise noted.

WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON is a collaboration between YA legends John Green and David Levithan, which is probably enough information to make you want to read it. But if not…also know that it is an amazing book.

A few things occurred to me after I’d read just the first couple chapters.

1. There are lots of YA books that are great to share with my 7th grade middle school students. This is not one of them. It’s really a book for high school and up.

2. This is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. Laugh-out-loud, snorting-milk funny. And smart.

3. Personally, I wish this book could be required reading for anyone who still believes that it is somehow okay not to give gay people the same rights as straight people. It’s a book that fosters understanding and empathy as well as anything I’ve ever read.

What else is WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON? It’s about two guys named Will Grayson who meet serendipitously. It’s written in both their voices (John Green writes the Will Grayson who writes with both upper and lower case letters, I confirmed when I asked about it via Twitter)

It’s a book about friendship and looking for love, about finding it and losing it, about dusting yourself off and trying again. It’s about skipping in the parking lot and singing — loudly — no matter who’s listening or what they say.

There’s a Broadway-esque musical within the novel that pretty much captures the whole spirit of the thing. You know those great Broadway shows, where the ending is so feel-good and cheesy but at the same time, so amazing and perfect that it couldn’t have ended any other way? And then when it’s over you just want to stand up and hug the stranger next to you and rush out and change the world? It’s like that.

It’s a wonderful, wonderful book. (Coming from Dutton in April 2010).

BUG BOY by Eric Luper: Not Your Mother’s Historical Fiction

Eric Luper’s historical YA novel BUG BOY comes out on Tuesday, and I can’t resist a little book celebration for one of my critique pals. If you know  , then you know he’s one of the nicest, funniest guys you’ll ever meet.  If you’ve read his first YA novel, BIG SLICK, you know he can spin a timely, fast-paced gambling story like nobody’s business.  Now there’s BUG BOY – a gambling story from days gone by that shows his talent for writing historical fiction as juicy and fast-paced as anything set in modern times.

This is a book that’s going to make teen boys fall in love with historical fiction without ever knowing what hit them. Set in 1934 Saratoga, BUG BOY is about an apprentice jockey who finds himself living the high life when his big opportunity comes knocking. But secrets from his past, pressure from a race course thug, and the attention of a beautiful young woman from the other side of the fence make his life more complicated than he could have imagined.   One teacher note: BUG BOY is probably best for older middle school and high school students, since the realistic portrayal of rough track life includes some language and sexual situations. Actually, I’m betting that a bunch of adult readers are going to discover and love this book, too – it has incredible crossover appeal, especially for horse racing and history fans. If you need it right this very second (and you probably do) click here to buy it from an indie bookstore near you!

Fascinating, gritty, and full of tension, BUG BOY is a sure win
. Congrats, Eric!

Winnie’s War by Jenny Moss

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, so I celebrate any time a great new historical novel shows up in the world.  Tomorrow is cause for celebration indeed because it’s the release day for Winnie’s War (Walker Books for Young Readers) by Jenny Moss.  In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll tell you that Jenny and I share a publisher and are online friends, but I’d be crowing about this book even if I’d never heard of her before.

I had the good fortune to read an ARC of Winnie’s War a few months ago and was absolutely swept away by this story of a small-town Texas girl standing up to try and protect her family from the 1918 Spanish Influenza epidemic. This is the very best kind of historical fiction – full of rich characters, vividly detailed history, the suspense of a threatening pandemic, and even a touch of romance in the form of a sweet little first-kiss scene that made me smile for weeks after I read it.  Teachers of grades 4-8, in particular, will want to snatch this one up for their classrooms and school libraries.


They say that whatever you do on the first day of the New Year tells how you’ll spend your time that year.  I’m so hoping this is true for books, too, because the first book I read in 2009 was one of my favorites in a long, long time.

I’ll apologize in advance for teasing – it’s not out until late January – but I simply can’t wait that long to talk about HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET by Jamie Ford.  I’d read a mention of it months ago on PubRants, the blog kept by Jamie’s agent Kristin Nelson.  I was excited to read this one because I knew it was set in Seattle during the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, and that’s a time period that has always interested me. I expected an interesting trip through history, but what I got was so, so much more than that.

Henry Lee is still mourning the death of his wife when he learns that the belongings of Japanese Americans hidden in the basement of Seattle’s Panama Hotel for decades have been discovered. Henry is drawn to the basement, and what he’s searching for there opens a door he thought he had closed forever. The story switches back and forth between 1986 and the 1940s, when a 12-year-old Henry attending an American school (he’s "scholarshipping" as his father likes to say) meets another international student working in the school kitchen. Keiko is Japanese American, the enemy according to Henry’s father, but the two become best friends before her family is imprisoned in one of the relocation camps.

This book does a phenomenal job exploring the history and attitudes of this time period, and Ford’s portrayal of Seattle’s ethnic neighborhoods is amazing. But really, the thing that pulled me into this novel the most was the richness of the relationships — Henry and Keiko, Henry and his father, Henry’s mother and his father, and Henry and his own son. HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET looks at the best and worst of human relationships, the way we regard others, the way we find ourselves reenacting our relationships with our parents with our own children, the choices we make along the way. Mostly, though, this book reminds us that there is always room — and time — for forgiveness and redemption.

I finished this book in tears, moved by the people who came to life so vividly in the story and sad that it had to end at all. HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET is a perfect, perfect choice for book clubs or for anyone craving a compelling story about human nature at its worst and at its best. An amazing, amazing book. It will be one of your favorites, too, I can almost promise.