By Mark Haddon

Mark Haddon’s novel has been compared to the likes of The Catcher in the Rye, and I can agree that it lives up to those standards.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time chronicles the story of Christopher Boone, a boy who can list for you every prime number up to 7,057 and every country’s capital.

The descriptions of Christopher make you think that he has autism or Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism, but Haddon never says those words in the book.

In Curious Incident, you look through the eyes of Christopher as he writes a book about solving the mystery of his neighbor’s dog getting killed. Along the way, he finds something his dad has kept a secret from him that changes his life forever.

It was actually quite fascinating to be able to look through Christopher’s eyes; though his disability has limited him socially, it has also given him an amazing ability to solve puzzles, problems and math equations.

I believe that Mark Haddon was trying to demonstrate to us with this novel that no matter whether you have a disability or not, that you can advocate for yourself and make things better. All it takes is problem solving. Christopher is a brilliant example of this, considering he had to overcome some of his greatest fears.

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This book will make you want to cry at some points, but I was cheering for Christopher the whole way through. He was a really inspiring protagonist to me considering that he had to go through all that he did, with a disability on top of that. Anybody will get drawn into this superb novel. (It’s a good rainy day book.)

My mom found this really interesting essay written by Mark Haddon after Curious Incident came out, and she thought this would be great to add:

This was what I was trying to do in Curious Incident. To take a life that seemed horribly constrained, to write about it in the kind of book that the hero would read – a murder mystery – and hopefully show that if you viewed this life with sufficient imagination it would seem infinite.

When I was writing for children, I was writing genre fiction. It was like making a good chair. However beautiful it looked, it needed four legs of the same length, it had to be the right height and it had to be comfortable.

With Curious Incident, I was trying to do something different. The first thing I was doing was writing to entertain myself rather than the person I remember being at six, or eight. Second, yes, the book has simple language, a carefully shaped plot and invites you to enter someone else’s life. And these, I think, are the aspects of the book that appeal most to younger readers.

But the book, I hope, does something more than that. The legs aren’t quite the same length. It isn’t entirely comfortable. It’s about how little separates us from those we turn away from in the street. It’s about how badly we communicate with one another. It’s about accepting that every life is narrow and that our only escape from this is not to run away (to another country, another relationship, a slimmer, more confident self) but to learn to love the people we are and the world in which we find ourselves.

As Christopher, my main character, says: ‘People go on holidays to see new things… but I think that there are so many things just in one house that it would take years to think about all of them properly.’

~  written by LitKid in 2014, with a little input from AKid@Heart

Postscript: Some of my friends got to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in Nighttime on Broadway on a school trip this past spring, and they said it was really meaningful and had a unique set/design; you can read more about that in this New York Times article.

Also: Many U.S. readers are probably familiar with the distinctive red cover of the book, but if you go to  Mark Haddon’s website, you can click through many different editions of the book, all of which have eye-catching cover art.

We’ve shared our ‘books as holiday art’ in years past (do check out that earlier post, as it has even more cool/funny/beautiful picture books) and wanted to share a handful of photos from this year’s holiday book-o-rating; some stay the same from year to year, but we have a few new ones, including this year’s addition to our holiday collection, Here Come Santa Cat (hilarious; check it out), which looks as if it was made for our funky Christmas cat, a favorite gift from my sister-in-law years ago.

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My childhood favorite, Mr. Willoughby’s Christmas Tree + our off-balance felt Christmas trees seems about right.

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Our snowy wooden trees always go with Eric Carle’s Dream Snow.

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Olivia Helps with Christmas, Auntie Claus and the Key to Christmas and Babar and Father Christmas are making the mantel colorful this year (along with the 50 roses my friends surprised me with for a certain milestone birthday).

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Our red-themed, tree-topped cake platter of books has a few variations this year:

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We hope you enjoy our take on making beautiful picture books part of our holiday celebration: Merry holidays, happy new year and jolly reading to you from LitKid and AKid@Heart!

photo 1Earlier tonight, the Lost in a Book “team” went to another great author event at Quail Ridge Books and Music, our favorite bookstore. It’s a school night, so there isn’t much time to write in detail about the joy of listening to author Jackie Woodson read from her books and talk about her work. But since I write for a living, I know all too well that a few words are usually much better than a flood, so I think “joy” sums up the night just fine. Listening to Woodson read her books was a joy; often she was speaking them – performing them, almost – from memory.  It was music and poetry. It was a joy to see the overflow crowd, which included my girl’s language arts teacher and her friends from the Quail Ridge Books middle school book club, which met an hour before to discuss “Brown Girl Dreaming,” Woodson’s latest, which is nominated for a National Book Award. photo 2And it was a joy to share the experience with my 85-year-old mom and my 13-year-old daughter and co-blogger – three generations of book lovers, listening to book love.

~AKid@Heart

Learn more about Jackie Woodson and Brown Girl Dreaming. Read the News and Observer story about her visit to Quail Ridge Books. 

Postscript: LitKid and her grandmother have both finished Brown Girl Dreaming; I’m next. LitKid will post her review soon.  

When a 13-year-old girl happily goes to an indoor event on a beautiful fall Sunday afternoon and seeks out (solo) a front-row seat in a crowd with an average age quite a few decades her senior, and then sits contentedly through a program featuring about 10 speakers … well, in my opinion, this is a tribute that speaks volumes.

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my co-blogger, on the edge of her front-row seat

My co-blogger and daughter (LitKid, as she’s called here) dearly loves Quail Ridge Books and Music, our stellar independent bookstore in Raleigh, NC, and she needed no coaxing when I told her that there was a celebration today of the 30th Anniversary of the store and a big tribute to its founder, Nancy Olson.

Nancy and her husband, Jim, and their dedicated, wonderful staff made Quail Ridge a place that readers and writers of all ages (and musicians and music-lovers, too) were drawn back to again and again.

“LitKid” grew up there, sitting with her nose in a book on the carpet in the back of the children’s section (I always had to drag her away); attending raucous kids’  events with many talented writers and illustrators; and tagging along with me for just as many “grownup” author events, often with her homework in tow.

I asked her over dinner tonight why she loved Quail Ridge. “Because it feels cozy and has a family-like feeling to it,” she said. “Everyone who works there always has smiles on their faces.”

And on the cake: the perfect choice of quote to celebrate Quail Ridge Books.

The Olsons decided several years ago that it was time to find someone from the next generation to take over the store. There were many nervous patrons hoping against hope that in the era of Amazon, mega-bookstores and e-books, the Olsons would be able to find someone who would honor that “family-like” feeling that my girl and I and many others love about Quail Ridge.

They gave their fans the gift of being painstaking about the search process, and it paid off. As long-time customers, my girl and I can happily report that they did find a buyer who is honoring the values — and the value — of this place that Nancy and the staff worked hard to create over a span of 25-plus years.

The second-generation owner, Lisa Poole, and the staff (all of our favorite, smiling faces have remained) fittingly chose to focus the 30th anniversary on honoring Nancy Olson.

Unfortunately, Nancy was not there to hear the lineup of writers, friends and book world luminaries who were there to pay tribute to her, including Charles Frazier, Clyde Edgerton, Jill McCorkle, Allen Gurganus, Bridgette Lacy, Angela Davis-Gardner, Randall Keenan, Margaret Maron, Clay Stalnaker and Oren Teicher, Executive Director of the American Booksellers’ Association.

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Part of the lineup of guest speakers paying tribute to Nancy Olson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She is recovering from unexpected surgery, and we hope the videos of all of those well-written (of course), humorous, touching tributes will speed her recovery along so we can spot her smiling face at a future event at the store – and so my girl can, as always, give her a big hug.

~ AKid@Heart

 

 

If you regularly find yourself lamenting kids’ devotion to electronic devices, texting and their inscrutable, abbreviated secret language, you’ll probably find this story heartening.

And so it begins

LitKid turned 13 recently and was having three friends over for a slumber party. Since this was a big birthday, and she was on board with having a smaller party (I lost my mind and allowed a past slumber party to swell to 11 girls a few years back), I thought it would be nice to get her friends a party favor that was nice/lasting (ie, not made of  plastic or sugar).

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I asked her what ideas she had, and she couldn’t think of anything right away. We were up against the clock, so I told her I had had an idea on the way to work -– how about giving her a friends a book she had enjoyed? I tossed out Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me as a first suggestion.

(I admit to bias on this one. It is one of my favorite books from recent years, based on its merits – it won the Newbery – and on the fact that I am a child of the 70s, so I felt right at home.)

Thumbs up or thumbs down? Cool mom or hopelessly bookish mom? 

My girl obviously loves to read, but I was fully prepared for her to tell me that a 13th birthday party favor needed to be something cool or trendy – or that not all of her friends would be into getting a book.

But to my surprise and delight (after all, 13-year-olds don’t tend to think 49-year-olds’ ideas are cool), her immediate, enthusiastic response was that this was a “perfect idea!” and When You Reach Me was a perfect book to give her friends.

Quail Ridge Books, our favorite store,  had three copies (which gave the idea a “meant to be” feel, as girls 4 and 5 had had to cancel at the last minute) and gift-wrapped them for us, as always.

Suspense

The night of the party, I was very curious (and yes, a little nervous) to see how the girls would react to their bookish gifts.

Again, the tween/teen reaction was heart-warming.

All three girls were genuinely thrilled – not an overstatement, I promise – when they opened their gifts … even the one who had already read When You Reach Me. 

“It was my little sister’s book from the library,” she said, “so I love having my own copy: I’m going to read it again … and hide it from my sister.”

Just another bit of unscientific evidence that print is not dead, and it’s always cool to be a reader, even at 13.

~AKid@Heart

 

 

The Book Thief

By Marcus Zusak

As soon as I picked up The Book Thief, I was immediately transported into a whole other world. A world where love and friendship were the hopes that everyone in Nazi Germany clung to in that time of fear.

At the beginning of the book you are introduced to the ever-faithful narrator, Death, who transports us through the lives and stories of those in Molching, Germany. Then you are introduced to a young girl, Liesel Meminger, who’s the main focus in this hypnotizing tale.

As you are introduced to her, she commits her first act of book thievery The Grave Digger’s Handbook. This will be a first in a long career. She has been sent to live with Hans and Rosa Hubermann, for her father left her family and her mother can no longer afford to take care of her.

Hans & Liesl develop a connection when Hans begins to teach Liesel to read after she wakes up from her recurring nightmare. Then comes Rudy Steiner, the next piece of Liesel’s puzzle. They grow closer through many a Himmel Street soccer game and then attend school together in the fall.

And next year on Hitler’s birthday, Liesel commits her second act of book thievery at the Hitler Youth Celebration of the Fuhrer’s birthday. She steals a book entitled The Shoulder Shrug. There is someone watching her the night she steals the second book.

And then comes Max Vanderburg, a Jew who shows up at the Hubermanns (because Hans was a good friend of his older brother Erik who died in the War that he and Hans served together) looking for a place to sleep, or rather hide, from the vicious and cruel Anti-Semitism rules of Hitler. He and Liesel soon form a bond over their love of reading, writing, and drawing as well as the loss of the families they loved.

Everybody needs to read this book. As I read on the back of the cover, this is a life-changing book in so many ways, and is probably one of the most beautifully written pieces of literature to ever grace my eyes. I got in trouble for reading it at school, and finished it in the wee hours of the morning on my way to school. For anybody who has not read this book, I urge you to as soon as you can.

~LitKid

Postscript: My mom read The Book Thief before I did, and it is one of her very favorite books now; we watched the movie after we had both read the book, and we thought it was great.

This weekend, the Literary Festival came to me at the Hunt Library at NCSU.10150555_10202785590973871_549481845_n

There were so many cool activities and authors, and the library itself was a spectacle to look at.

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 There are also tons of really cool authors doing readings there such as John Claude Bemis, R.L. Stine, and Kelly Starlings-Lyon.

There are also cool workshops, like a comic-making workshop, and a book-making workshop.

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There were so many fun activities for kids of all ages, like making your own comic, or recreating a scene from your favorite book with Legos (I did Divergent!), and 1606956_10202785587493784_1897744004_n
finding out how literacy fits in with Math.

One of the coolest things I saw on the first day was the StoryUp! Aerialist group, who recreated some of our favorite fables and stories using aerial silks. Paperhand Puppet Intervention was there, too.

 

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There are so many fun things to do at the Literary Festival for everyone in your family. Sadly I didn’t get to do all of things mentioned above because I was out of town part of Saturday, but those were some of the things they offered.

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Move over DC (National Book Festival) — you’ve got competition! (and goooooo Wolfpack!)

Bonus: Our friends from our favorite bookstore, Quail Ridge Books & Music were there with a pop-up bookstore!

Oh, look at the time– I gotta get over to NC State for today’s activities!  ~LitKid

 

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Postscript from AKid@Heart: Who doesn’t love  building with Legos? While LitKid made her cool Divergent scene, I decided to try to create a setting from my kids’ novel manuscript … the rooftop of the main characters’ city apartment building, complete with Tiki shelter (and gliders below), a garden and night-time lights. (Kids have no idea how basic Legos used to be!)

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By John Green

John Green’s New York Times-best-selling book tells about the entwined love story of Hazel Lancaster and Augustus Waters. Hazel has thyroid cancer, and Augustus is in remission from losing his leg to osteosarcoma, which puts a fascinating plot line in place.

Hazel and Augustus meet at a support group for kids with cancer, and Augustus accompanies his friend Isaac. Immediately afterwards, they go to watch a movie at Augustus’ house, and they click right then and there.

One of the main things they bond over is books. Hazel makes Augustus read An Imperial Affliction, and in turn Hazel reads the Price of Dawn, the novelization of Augustus’s favorite video game. After reading it, Augustus says, “Tell me my copy is missing the last twenty pages or something. Hazel Grace, tell me I have not reached the end of this book.” So Augustus uses the “Make-a-Wish” he saved to fly them to Amsterdam to meet the author, who, in an ironic twist of plot turns out to be a drunk.

I personally enjoyed the way this book was written, unique in its own special kind of way. The plot line was also perfectly planned out and could not have been more perfect for the book.  I could not stand to put it down for a second. Hazel & Augustus captured my heart from the moment I opened the book. The Fault in Our Stars  is a must-read for any teen reader or adult. You will want to read it all in one sitting.

~LitKid

postscript from AKid@Heart: As LitKid gets older, she’s tackling books about bigger issues. My policy all along has been do almost no editing of her reviews, unless something is truly hard to follow/understand.

When I got to this sentence of the “Fault in Our Stars” review: 

“So Augustus uses the “Make-a-Wish” he saved to fly them to Amsterdam to meet the author, who, in an ironic twist of plot turns out to be a drunk.”

… I was a little taken aback! But it occurred to me that “Lost in a Book” is entering a whole new era of book reviewing as she enters a new era of reading, and my policy will remain the same; I hope you enjoy seeing her perspective evolve as much as I will! 

(She read TFIOS as part of a middle school bookclub, and the bookclub leaders later said that they realized too late that it was probably better for older kids.) 

Screen shot 2014-01-27 at 12.32.21 AMWacko Academy: Book 1

by Faith Wilkins ~ Arundel Press 

We’re proud to be part of Multicultural Children’s Book Day, and I loved being picked to review this book!

Wacko Academy tells the first installment of the adventures of Lilly Mason and Dustin Wackerson.

Dustin mysteriously shows up at Lily’s middle school in the beginning of her 8th grade year, instantly becoming a girl magnet with his good looks and sense of humor. They become really close to each other and go to the school’s harvest dance, which quickly turns from dance to disaster. It turns out that Dustin really came to her school to recruit her to his dad’s extremely fancy, high-tech boarding school.

Once Lily gets settled in, it starts to seem better, she and Dustin repair their friendship and he becomes her personal trainer. She advances quickly and is sent of to the school’s on-campus boot camp, where she meets True & Cattie, the two friends she will make there.

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Afterwards they make the disturbing discovery. A mysterious tall building. Dustin says he has seen unconscious kids wheeled in there before, often never to return. If they do return, they usually have some sort of injury or just can’t remember what happened.

When they relay the story, everybody is purely horrified and definitely on board with their plan to get those kids out of harm’s way. To do this, they will need some fancy technology and a cover.

You will have to read the book to find out all of the juicy details!

I liked this book because of the adventure and excitement was always there at every turn of the page and never failed to leave me in suspense. The plot is beautifully put into place. The personality of each character brings wit and humor to the book.

The pump of adrenaline is apparent page by page, and the writing could not be more humorous, adventurous, and overall really good quality. I liked the conflict the best because it added the most suspense and excitement. If I ever wrote a book, I’d want it to have an air of suspense, excitement, and adventure like this book.

Faith Wilkins (who is only 16 years old!)

Faith Wilkins, who is only 16 years old!
(photo ~ Arundel Press)

People like Faith make a big impact by encouraging more kids to share their ideas with the world; Faith is a role model to other kids who think they shouldn’t share their ideas with the world. This wonderful piece of literature gives those people hope. You should always share what you believe in, like your manuscripts, or short stories, or poems. You can be like the wonderful Faith Wilkins and make your impact.

  ~LitKid (12-year-old co-blogger at Lost in a Book)

Read more about Faith.

Read more about Multicultural Children’s Book Day!

Dear author/illustrator friends of “Lost in a Book”~

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In 2012, one of LitKid’s fellow book-loving friends was rushed to the hospital with a scary medical emergency (seizures and more, following a bite from a mosquito carrying an encephalitis virus at summer camp).

We reached out via the blog and Twitter, asking authors/illustrators we’ve connected with if they would be willing to send “ReaderGirl” messages of encouragement. We got amazing response, and on her third day in the hospital, we were able to take a stack of good wishes to ReaderGirl (who is back to perfect health today).

On this eve of Christmas Eve, we’re asking you for a similar favor. A student at LitKid’s wonderful former elementary school was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia last year. Now a first-grader, she just got a tremendous holiday gift of bone marrow from a faraway donor, and the transplant took place a couple of weeks ago.

(We use pen names here on the blog, so from here on out in our story, we’ll call her “SuperGirl,” in honor of her superhero-level bravery.)

While this bone marrow was a wonderful gift, it means that SuperGirl is spending the holidays (and weeks after) at Duke Children’s Hospital — and of course, that is a BUMMER.

So if you have a minute to send a little holiday cheer and a lot of encouragement to SuperGirl, we would be very grateful.

It doesn’t have to be long or fancy; getting good wishes from a real, live children’s book writer-illustrator-creative-person-extraordinaire would be pretty amazing, no matter what form it takes.

(We’ve heard through the grapevine that SuperGirl was requesting art from her friends to make her room cheerful, and we bet your greetings would be a nice addition to her gallery.)

For purposes of full disclosure, we are acquaintances of this brave girl and her family, tied by a once-shared elementary school as well as mutual friends locally and one state away. SuperGirl’s story also hits home for us because LitKid spent a scary week in the hospital when she was just a year and a half old, with many scary terms flying around, including aplastic anemia and leukemia; in the end, LitKid’s diagnosis was far less serious than those early guesses and  much more manageable.

So while we are not close friends of SuperGirl and her family, we greatly admire their courage, especially that of her sister, a third-grader at LitKid’s elementary school. Siblings have to be incredibly brave and patient (feel free to send a note for SuperGirl’s sister, too; I think SuperSister is a fitting pen name for her!).

Maybe you could do something as simple as scrawling a short,
colorful message (or doodle?) in magic marker, then snapping a smartphone photo of it and emailing it to our Lost in a Book email address? Typing a quick note in an email is great, too; whatever works for you.

Our email address is 2girlslostinabook@gmail.com. (And if you would like to use SuperGirl’s real first name — or her sister’s — in your note to personalize it, just email us, and we’d be happy to share that with you privately.)

If you know of other writer/illustrator friends who might be willing to send a message, please feel free to send them this post.

Thank you in advance for your kindness and gift of time!

~AKid@Heart

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