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All The Wonders This Week w/ Stephanie Lucianovic: September 10, 2019
Author Stephanie Lucianovic discusses Book Festival Controversies , National Read a Book Day, fantastic middle grade and picture book titles for 9/11, new nonfiction books for kids who love science, and two books about death. We’ve got all this and more. I’m Corrina Allen and this is All The Wonders This Week.
Thank you for joining us this Tuesday, September 10th, 2019! Joining me today to discuss all things exciting and new in the world of children’s literature is Stephanie one of my favorite people to follow on Twitter and a writer who has covered a huge range of topics from food to parenting, TV to vampire dating habits. She is the author of Suffering Succotash: A Picky Eater’s Quest to Understand Why We Hate the Foods We Hate and the just-released-today picture book called The End of Something Wonderful: A Practical Guide to a Backyard Funeral, which is her first foray into children’s book publishing.
- Julia Watts, a YA author, was disinvted from a Teen Lit Festival in Tenessee called Lit uP because the organizers “discovered” that she also wrote adult books that feature lesbian romance.
- Harry Potter books were removed from the shelves of a Roman Catholic school because the Rev. Dan Reehil, a pastor at the Roman Catholic parish school, said that the curses and spells really worked.
- In some comic book news from Brazil, organizers of the Rio International Book Biennial festival refused an order of the Mayor of Rio de Janeiro to remove an Avengers comic book because he didn’t like that it contained a kiss between two men. So bravo to those organizers!
- The Princeton Children’s Book Festival is coming up on Saturday, September 14th with a great lineup of authors and illustrators.
- September 6th was National Read a Book Day! And I loved seeing everyone’s pictures on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook of what books they were reading for the day.
- Tomorrow is also the 18th anniversary of 9/11 and 9/11 Remembrance Day. It’s still a little startling to me that books covering September 11th are classified as historical fiction, but there are some excellent ones available. For middle grade readers, I loved Nine, Ten: A September 11th Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin, Just a Drop of Water by Kerry O’Malley Cerra, Eleven by Tom Rogers, Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes, and the 6th I Survived book – I Survived the Attacks of September 11th, 2001 is also excellent. For pictures books, there is Fireboat, 14 Cows for America, and one that I just learned about this week called September Roses that’s about two sisters from South Africa who get stranded in New York City with over 2,000 roses for a flower show in the city that never ended up happening. And it’s about what happens next.
Today’s New Releases
Corrina: I was just sharing with my students that Tuesdays are my favorite day of the week because on Tuesdays new books are born into the world! And today, I am particularly excited because your debut picture book – The End of Something Wonderful: A Practical Guide to a Backyard Funeral is out today. Congratulations, Stephanie! Can you tell us a bit about your book and your collaboration with illustrator George Ermos?
Stephanie: Thank you! I’m just so excited to be talking to you about it on its release day! Well, I need to get better about booktalking this so bear with me as I attempt it. So on the face of it, this book is about the steps children might take to hold a funeral when one of their pets has died. But the heart of the book is about how holding a funeral and going through the steps of planning it can help you process grief. It also seeks to normalize death to some degree so that maybe when a child does experience death for the first time, the blow can be softened. I’d like for the book to open up discussions between adults and children about how death, while sad, is part of life and it’s not something to fear or hide from discussing. And both George, with his amazing, sweet and darkly humorous illustrations, and me with my words, have woven some gentle laughs in there as well because the use of humor is another way some people process grief.
- The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family by Ibtihaj Muhammed, S.K. Ali, and Hatem Aly: I am so excited for this first day of school book, which is not just the first day of school for one of the sisters in the book, it’s also her first day of hijab.
- Wait, Rest, Pause: Dormancy in Nature by Marcie Flinchum Atkins (a nonfiction picture book) came out last week – it’s a gorgeous, lyrical, non-fiction picture book that explains different kinds of dormancy in nature.
- Also out today Fairy Science by Ashley Spires.
- A new picture book by Brendan Kearney is out today called Musical Mac.
- Two sweet books coming out today that are perfect for bedtime are Sleep: How Nature Gets Its Rest by Kate Prendergast and Good Night, Oliver Wizard. Both of these look so charming!
- And also hitting the shelves today is Betty Builds It by Julie Hampton.
- A mostly wordless picture book out today by Strictly No Elephants author Lisa Mantchev and illustrated by David Litchfield who did The Bear and the Piano is Remarkables about a boy meeting a mermaid. It is gorgeous with this luminous quality of light and water that is so so stunning.
- We’re also starting to get some winter themed and holiday books out today including Santa and the Goodnight Train, Little Robin’s Christmas and The Luckiest Snowball by Elliot Kreloff about a boy who repeatedly rescues a snowball so it can see all the seasons. And Matt Tavares who you may know from Red and Lulu has a new picture book out called Dasher: How a Brave Little Doe Changed Christmas Forever.
Chapter Books / Middle Grade
- Today is the release day for the follow up to a really cool book that I loved called Lucy by Randy Cecil. Not quite a chapter book but more of a longer form picture book (there’s probably some publishing name for these times of books like Diva & Flea…) Anyway – Lucy was about a little stray dog and a girl and a juggler. And today’s sequel is called Douglas – a story in four acts about a brave movie-theatre mouse. And both of these books are black and white and have this ethereal cinematic feel.
- I’m really excited that today is the release day for Lulu is Getting a Sister: Who WANTS Her? Who NEEDS Her? By Judith Viorst and Kevin Cornell. This is such a hysterical series with a really distinct main character, Lucy, who is as relatable as she is crabby. Or maybe she’s relatable because she’s so crabby. I have loved Judith Viorst’s writing since I was a kid and the fact that she’s still writing new and hilarious books that I can read to and with my own kids kind of blows my mind. I still have battered childhood copies of her poetry collection If I Were In Charge of the World and Other Worries and My Mama Says There Aren’t Any Zombies, Ghosts, Vampires, Creatures, Demons, Monsters, Fiends, Goblins, Or Things. She’s the kind of writer I aspire to be.
- Another middle grade historical fiction novel out today that is set during WWII is On Snowden Mountain by Jeri Watts. And I want to mention that Sean Easley’s second book in his incredible The Hotel Between series actually came out last week so look for The Key of Lost Things.
- And from the author of Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer (Kelly Jones) comes a middle grade ghost story called Sauerkraut and a book I’ve heard great things about called Free Lunch by Rex Ogle.
- Fans of Mike Lupica will be psyched that he’s got another book out today called Strike Zone – this one about baseball.
- AND – a book that has been getting a massive amount of attention and buzz is the first in a new fantasy trilogy called Malamander by Thomas Taylor with illustrations by Tom Booth. I had the chance to read the first couple chapters and it is quirky with a little twist of gothic and I can’t wait to finish it!
- A book I’ve been dying to read is out today – The Star Shepherd by Dan Haring and MarcyKate Connelly. “Neil Gaiman meets How to Train Your Dragon in this beautifully illustrated middle-grade novel about a boy, his trusted dog, and his best friend, as they race to save the stars before their light is extinguished for good.”
- THE graphic novel that I can’t wait to show up at my house today is Stargazing by Jen Wang whose The Prince and the Dressmaker was one of my all-time favorite books of last year. “Moon is everything Christine isn’t. She’s confident, impulsive, artistic . . . and though they both grew up in the same Chinese-American suburb, Moon is somehow unlike anyone Christine has ever known. Moon even tellsChristine her deepest secret: that she has visions, sometimes, of celestial beings who speak to her from the stars. Who reassure her that earth isn’t where she really belongs.”
- Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?: Big Questions From Tiny Mortals About Death by Caitlin Doughty releases today, the same day as my death book! Caitlin is a mortician and owns a funeral home called Undertaking LA. She is also the author of several other books about normalizing death and has a web series called “Ask the Mortician.” It might seem like it is geared for adults and older readers and maybe it is, but Caitlin is taking the questions she literally gets from kids about death (or about their common misconceptions about death) and answering them because maybe their parents won’t or can’t bring themselves to do it. They are questions like the title question but also “Why do corpses groan?” or “What happens when you die on a plane?” as well as talking about the best soil for mummification! And I just love this tagline: “Beautifully illustrated by Dianné Ruz, Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? shows us that death is science and art, and only by asking questions can we begin to embrace it.”
- Out today are four new titles in the Picture Book Biography series. There’s one called Fossil Huntress about paleontologist Mary Leaky. Then Computer Decoder about computer scientist Dorothy Vaughn and Space Adventurer about astronaut Bonnie Dunbar. And the fourth title is Human Computer about engineer Mary Jackson. What’s cool about this series is that they are full color illustrations and include related STEM activities!
- Another nonfiction book that I am really excited about today is Life: The First Four Billion Years: The Story of Life from the Big Bang to the Evolution of Humans by award winning author and illustrators Martin Jenkins and Grahame Baker-Smith.
- We also get a new installment in the quirky Vs. Series from National Geographic. This one is Sharks vs. Sloths.
- And a nonfiction picture book about the childhood of Frank Lloyd Wright is out today that looks really intriguing. It’s called Prairie Boy: Frank Lloyd Wright Turns the Heartland into a Home
Other Media New Releases
TV Shows / MOVIES
- Hair Love kickstarter
- The new season of The Worst Witch on Netflix along with a new season of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, on Netflix
- The fourth and final season of the The Good Place comes out Sept. 27th
- Archibald’s Next Big Thing just started up on Netflix, it’s based on the 2014 children’s book by actor Tony Hale and Tony Biaggne and illustrators Misty Manley and Victor Huckabee
- Owl’s Outstanding Donuts by Robin Yardi (MG) and Ghost by Jason Reynolds, and Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.
- Just yesterday, I finished Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham’s sequel to the graphic novel Real Friends called Best Friends. My 12 year-old daughter and I both read and LOVED it. We both liked how the book tackles anxiety and those friendship minefields. And I loved all the references to 80s songs and TV shows like the A-Team and the Bangles.
For me, I’ve been thinking about how hard it gets for middle school kids to keep their reading life going strong. My oldest daughter just started 7th grade and already the homework load is intensified and now she’s also playing Varsity Tennis for the next month which is another pull on her time. And by the time she gets home she’s so tired that picking up a book is hard. And I’m starting to see first hand why so many kids stop reading after elementary school.
So something I’ve been thinking about very recently as I struggle to figure out how to handle my book launch party/storytime in a few weeks is how much being a teacher can help kidlit authors when they do school and bookstore talks or presentations. You guys are so gifted with knowing just how to talk to kids and engage them in a presentation like that. I thought I’d just read the book straight and do a few crafts after but I think I actually need to come up with *patter* to engage them before and throughout the reading.
Thank all of you for listening and sharing your Tuesday with us!
You can find an outline of the show and links to all the books and topics we chatted about at allthewonders.com. If you have a question or comment, I’d love to hear from you! You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with me on Twitter or Instagram. And reviews on iTunes or Stitcher are always much appreciated.
The All the Wonders This Week podcast is brought to you by All The Wonders, where children’s books are for everyone. Journey beyond the page with podcasts, videos, crafts, and more at allthewonders.com.
See you next week!