For a change of pace, all of the books I’m writing about were written in this century! I’ve tried to include something for every age. For those old enough, all of them are wonderful.
Press Here, a picture book written and illustrated by Herve Tullet, published in France in 2010, and in the U.S.A. in 2011 by Chronicle Books. This book is the kind of book that leads people to say things like, “I could write that.” His illustrations even lead me to say, “I could do that.”
But those of us who are not Herve Tullet did not have the deceptively simple, yet dazzlingly brilliant idea that makes this picture book such a clever, funny, and even interactive (?) book without any google eyes, pop-ups, or any kind of gimmick (not that I’m always opposed to gimmicks).
I can’t tell you much more without giving it away. It made me laugh each time I read it so I bought it. One friend didn’t get it—which is my only clue that it might not be for everyone, but I just can’t wait to read it with some kids, age unimportant.
Remember the SCBWI conference (Three Days of Peace, Love, and Rollicking Books, 8/23/12)? Remember Gary Schmidt who said writers should write to “give kids more to be a human being with”? Well, I checked out two of his books for middle-grade readers. Wow! He can speak and write eloquently.
Lizzy Bright and the Buckminster Boy, written by Gary D. Schmidt and published by
Houghton Mifflin Co. in 2004. The backstory for this novel is an actual event that ocurred on a small island off Maine’s coast that was settled by people who were not ethnically or otherwise acceptable to the people of the nearby mainland town. The island people were eventually run off the island. The novel is the story of the new preacher’s son who is considered an outsider among the boys of the town. Turner makes friends with an African-American girl from the island and with some of the town’s residents who are also considered inconvenient by the townsfolk.
This book has sentences of great beauty, scenes that are heart-breaking, and scenes that inspire. It faces part of our ugly history, but reminds us there are people who, by fighting prejudice and injustice, remind others of what is important. Lizzy Bright and the Buckminster Boy was a Newbery Honor Book.
The Wednesday Wars, written by Gary D. Schmidt and published by Houghton Mifflin Co. in 2007. At first I enjoyed the story (it’s funny too), but felt it didn’t have the depth of Lizzy Bright and the Buckminster Boy. As the story continues, more layers are added, and we see the protagonist grow in understanding and compassion while the book retains its humor. This was also a Newbery Honor Book. There were many beautiful lines I read to my husband. There were certain elements of the book that interfered with his suspension of disbelief—some unrealistic school practices.
In both books, Gary Schmidt provides tools “to be more human with.” These are books that will be on my giving list.
The Fault in Our Stars, written by John Green and published by Dutton Books in 2012. While an adult novel, this book seems perfect to me as a young adult read. Hazel is seventeen years old. She has loving parents . . . and terminal cancer, which she sees as “a side effect of dying” and by extension a side effect of living. She loves her loving parents and worries about the side effects of her death on them.
The book has drama, lots of funny lines, lots of thoughtful lines, true love, true friendship, international travel, and a “disgusting” author of the book Hazel is obsessed with. There were lots of lines I wanted to read to my husband, but didn’t since he’s going to read it next.
For some terrific night sky photos, go to
Wish I knew how to make it a link. You might be able to copy and paste into your browser.
Now I’d like to ask for your help. Some other blogs I’ve checked give much more detailed information about plot and characters. I’ve kept these reviews shorter because I personally have trouble reading too much about a story—I want to just get to the book and get to know the characters for myself. Please let me know if you’d like more detail, about the same amount of information, or less. I’ll also be writing about writing (but not necessarily in a systematic way). And look for a contest in a few weeks.