Monday, June 30, 2014

The Big Book of Superheroes by Bart King - and a Giveaway!

The Big Book of Superheroes by Bart King, illustrated by Greg Paprocki (April 2014, Gibbs Smith, for ages 9 to 12)

Source: hardcover review copy from the publisher

Synopsis (from the publisher): If you're wondering if you have what it takes to be a superhero--of course you do! All you need is a burning desire to fight evildoers. Oh, and also a secret identity, the perfect name, a cool costume, some terrific superpowers, and an archenemy. Actually, you know what? You better get this book. 

From The Big Book of Superheros by Bart King. Illustration by Greg Paprocki. Used by permission.

Why I recommend it: It's super fun! This book is chock-full of info, along with quizzes, crafts, and comics. It's tongue-in-cheek and even downright silly (and liberally sprinkled with exclamation points!) but always entertaining. Kids will lap this up, while you'll enjoy dipping into it. Think of it as Everything You Wanted to Know About Superheroes and How to Become One (But Never Thought To Ask). Did you know the first hero was a girl? Did you know going offline will help you develop a superpower? Did you know the greatest superhero saying wasn't said by a superhero?

When Bart King contacted me in May, I remembered all his previous books from the bookstore where I used to work. The Big Books of Boy Stuff, Girl Stuff, Spy Stuff, and Gross Stuff were always brisk sellers. 

Bart kindly agreed to answer three questions:

Bart working in his home office

1) Bart, if you could have only one superpower, what would it be, and why?

There was a time when I thought being “Dishwasher Safe” might be exciting. But now, I wish I had the power to travel 30 seconds into the future. This would set up delightful scenarios like...
—“How did Bart get in the front seat so fast? I was going to call shotgun!”
—“What the what?! Bart ate the last slice of pizza AGAIN?”
—”Bart, can you get the mower out and—hmm, he was here a second ago...”

Also, I should mention that kids who don’t read are my kryptonite. So I’d love to be able to shoot a beam (or write a book) that could persuade them to change their ways! :P

2) I think you may have done that with this book, Bart. So...who's your favorite villain?

Doctor Doom. 

Maybe Doctor Doom’s my favorite because he uses an entire country as his hideout, and the capital is called Doomstadt. Maybe it’s because the airport there is Doomsport, and the biggest local holiday is Doom’s Day.

Or most likely, Doctor Doom is my favorite villain because I wish that I could get away with wearing body armor and a green cape. :P

3) You started your writing career with a book for adults (An Architectural Guidebook to Portland). What made you switch to writing for children?

As a longtime middle school teacher, I tried to model the behavior I wanted from my students. So when I assigned an ambitious research paper to my 8th graders in 1997, I decided to do one myself. 

At that time, I was a newcomer to Portland (Oregon), and was curious about the civic history of the city. So I started researching specific buildings downtown, looking for common threads in terms of timelines, social events, architects, building styles, etc. 

While this may sound as dry as brick dust, I found myself looking at our “built environment” in a completely new way. And my classroom research paper eventually led to An Architectural Guidebook to Portland (Oregon State University Press). That book became a terrific prop for me to pull out when students said things like “Why do we have to do this?” about their writing assignments.

After the Architectural Guidebook, I pivoted to writing for kids. Like any teacher, I had reluctant readers...and I wanted to try to write books that appealed directly to them. (Also, I have a useful superpower: I’m incredibly immature!) 

Bart with a friend, from the official website

Thanks so much, Bart. Readers, what superpower would YOU choose? I would choose super speed-reading so I could get through my TBR list. 

From The Big Book of Superheros by Bart King. Illustration by Greg Paprocki. Used by permission.

Visit Bart King's website

Follow Bart on Twitter

Here's a great review from This Kid Reviews Books

And now for the giveaway! Gibbs Smith has generously offered a hardcover copy to one lucky winner. Sorry, but the publisher is limiting this one to continental US addresses only (hey, it's a heavy book).

Entering is simple: you must be a follower and you must leave a comment on this post. For extra fun, in your comment tell us what superpower you would choose (but only one!).

This giveaway ends at 10 pm EDT on Sun July 13. I'll let randomizer pick a winner, who will be announced on Monday July 14. Good luck!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Falcon in the Glass for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

(Please note that I'm scheduling this post ahead of time, but I'll be flying back from a vacation, and probably won't be able to respond to comments or visit your blogs until Tuesday or Wednesday. Bear with me!)

Falcon in the Glass by Susan Fletcher (July 2013, Margaret K. McElderry Books for Young Readers, for ages 10 to 14)

Source: library

Synopsis (from the publisher): In Venice in 1487, the secrets of glassblowing are guarded jealously. Renzo, a twelve-year-old laborer in a glassworks, has just a few months to prepare for a test of his abilities, and no one to teach him. If he passes, he will qualify as a skilled glassblower. If he fails, he will be expelled from the glassworks. Becoming a glassblower is his murdered father’s dying wish for him, and the means of supporting his mother and sister. But Renzo desperately needs another pair of hands to help him turn the glass as he practices at night.

One night he is disturbed by a bird—a small falcon—that seems to belong to a girl hiding in the glassworks. Soon Renzo learns about her and others like her—the bird people, who can communicate with birds and are condemned as witches. He tries to get her to help him and discovers that she comes with baggage: ten hungry bird-kenning children who desperately need his aid. Caught between devotion to his family and his art and protecting a group of outcast children, Renzo struggles for a solution that will keep everyone safe in this atmospheric adventure. 

Why I recommend it: It's historical fiction that reads like a thrilling adventure story. If you like Karen Cushman, Gary Blackwood, or Linda Sue Park's A Single Shard, you'll love this book. The writing is gorgeous, and rich in sensory images. I've been a fan of Susan Fletcher since I read Shadow Spinner many years ago and her writing is masterful. Read this one to study how she handles third person.

Author's website

For other MMGM posts, see Shannon's links.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Do You Wanna Know a Secret?

I don't like every book I read.


I said it.

It occurred to me that since I gush about (mostly) MG novels here on the blog, you might think I'm one of those readers who just love every single book they read. Without discrimination. It's-the-best-book-ever kind of adoration.

It's true; I do read a ton of books. And yes, I show enthusiasm for the ones I really love or even just like. I'll read historical fiction, fantasy, contemporary, mysteries, sci-fi, humor, thrillers. I'll read MG and YA and occasional adult books. I truly enjoy most of them.

But you rarely hear about the books I don't like.

Chances are if it's a zombie book, I won't like it (gives me nightmares, honestly!). If the narrator talks directly and incessantly to the reader in a condescending tone ("Dear Reader" this, and "Dear Reader" that), I probably won't like it. If the characters are all privileged pretentious snobs, I won't like it.

And if I feel I'm being manipulated, I definitely won't like it.

Courtesy of Jim Carrey GIFS for Every Occasion at The FW

I just finished reading a new and much-hyped novel and while I was definitely drawn in, I read it with a critical eye. The big reveal didn't shock me, because I knew from the hype that there was going to be a shocking twist, and my brain kept looking for it. When I finished the book I went back to page one. And started over. And I found several instances where the writer cleverly but unfairly (I thought) inserted some sentences that were clearly added to make you think one way. When the opposite was true.

Yes, I'd been manipulated. Which only the best writers can do well. But I HATE when it happens.

I mean, look at me. I ended up reading the book twice, even though I didn't like it very much. Crazy, no? You could argue that the author certainly succeeded.

(If you're curious and would like to know the title of said book, check off the little box that lets me email you directly and I'll let you know privately.)

Are they any types of books (without naming titles) that you don't like to read?