Maureen

The Strivers' Row Spy

posted by: February 22, 2017 - 7:00am

Cover art for The Strivers' Row SpyJason Overstreet’s suspenseful debut transports readers to the dazzle and excitement of the 1920s Harlem Renaissance in The Strivers' Row Spy, the first entry in a promising mystery series. Sidney Temple is a recent college graduate on the brink of opportunity that even his bourgeois family could not have imagined. His impulsive marriage to artist Loretta brings him great happiness, but even more is in store for this bright young man.

 

J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, hand-picks Sidney to be the FBI’s first African-American agent, and Sidney knows this is his chance to make a change and work for justice. The FBI is intent on bringing down Marcus Garvey, prominent head of the back-to-Africa movement. Sidney uses his previously unknown skills at deception and undercover work to thwart the Bureau’s investigation. And by giving renowned leader W.E.B. DuBois insider information, Sidney gambles on a change that could mean a fair future for all Americans.

 

As Sidney and Loretta climb into the most influential Harlem circles, the stakes become more perilous. Tragedy threatens to shatter Loretta’s trust in her husband, and Sidney’s double-life is dangerously precarious. Overstreet does a marvelous job of capturing the heady atmosphere of 1920s Harlem, and is so convincing in his storytelling that readers may forget this is all fiction and Sidney Temple never existed. Overstreet peppers his story with real historical figures from the ‘20s. Besides Hoover, DuBois and Garvey, Sidney also has encounters with James Weldon Johnson, Adam Clayton Powell and Max Eastman. Readers who enjoy spy stories or historical fiction will definitely find a new author to follow in Jason Overstreet.

 

Are you doing BCPL’s Reading Challenge? This would be a great one for February’s challenge. Don’t forget to take a picture of yourself with the book and submit your entry by visiting Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and post or tweet the photo with the hashtag #bwellread. Camera-shy participants may post a photograph of the book they’ve chosen.

 


 
 

I’ll Be Damned

posted by: February 14, 2017 - 7:00am

I'll Be DamnedYou don’t have to be a fan of The Young and the Restless to appreciate this honest memoir from one of that show’s biggest stars, Eric Braeden. In I’ll Be Damned: How My Young and Restless Life Led Me to America’s #1 Daytime Drama, Braeden shares his life story, including his almost four decades on the number one daytime television show as the charismatic Victor Newman.

 

Braeden was born in 1941 in a dark, airless hospital basement in Kiel, Germany. Allied bombs sounded in the air and the ground shook with repeated explosions. Days after his birth, the hospital was destroyed in yet another Allied attack. But Braeden’s childhood was a happy and privileged one. His parents were loving, he had brothers to play with and developed a love for sports, especially track and field. His father’s sudden death when he was 12 changed his life forever. The family was forced to sell their beautiful home and possessions and move into a house with no central heating, no hot running water and no showers or toilets that worked.

 

While struggling through these hard times, his family never gave up, and Eric continued his education and his track and field prowess. He jumped at the opportunity to go to America when he received a partial track and field scholarship to Montana State University (now University of Montana). While there, he and his friends participated in the filming of a documentary film, which led him to Los Angeles and his destiny as a television star. This rags-to-riches immigrant story is an uplifting tale that takes us from Nazi Germany to modern Hollywood. It is the story of one man shaped by war and deprivation who dedicated his life to his art, his family and humanitarian work.


 
 

Between the Covers with Elinor Lipman

posted by: February 7, 2017 - 7:00am

Cover art for On Turpentine LaneA new Elinor Lipman novel is always a must-read for me, and On Turpentine Lane certainly lived up to expectations. Filled with relatable, funny characters, sharp dialogue and fast-moving stories, Lipman writes wonderful romantic comedies that bring the reader into the world she creates.

 

Faith Frankel moves from Brooklyn back to her hometown of Everton, Massachusetts, and falls in love with a cupcake of a house on Turpentine Lane. She has a job in fundraising at her alma mater and a solid boyfriend in Stuart. Her life is starting to take shape. But when Stuart leaves for a cross-country hitchhiking expedition, her job is threatened and the police start ripping up her basement looking for bones, her world is torn upside down. Through it all, Faith’s family is supportive, as is her colleague and soon-to-be roommate, Nick.

 

Elinor has been called the Jane Austen of America and I was thrilled to be able to talk to her about her inspiration, her favorite authors and Colin Firth, who we both agreed was the best Mr. Darcy ever!

 

Between the Covers: I am so thrilled to be talking to one of my favorite authors! You never disappoint, and On Turpentine Lane was wonderful with sparkling characters, sharp dialogue and laugh-out-loud comedy. Who or what was your inspiration for this novel?
Elinor Lipman: Thank you! The inspiration was a dark, creepy house on my childhood street, in a thicket of overgrown trees and shrubs and weeds — the whole thing looming large in my memory. The owner had been a reclusive widow, always dressed in a long black, witchy dress, rarely seen. I used to cross the street rather than walk past her house and certainly never trick-or-treated there.

 

Fast forward 40-plus years, and I found out that my best childhood friend had bought the house and had moved in. I was astonished. I was going to write an essay about visiting a house as an adult that had spooked me as a child, but then it struck me as not only a setting for a novel, but a character in the story.   

 

BTC: Faith Frankel is delightful! She’s gutsy and loving, yet honest and sometimes immature. How did Faith come to you? Is she based on anyone you know?
EL: Naïve, yes, but I'd argue with immature in case that made her sound bratty. She's not based on anyone I know. I start with an opening sentence or a line of dialogue and then develop the character as I go along.  She's her own person…though probably has a lot of me in her.  

 

BTC: Your dialogue in this one, as in all of your novels, is snappy and smart and your supporting characters are quirky, realistic and well-developed. Are the dialogue or characters based on real conversations or people?
EL: That's a hard one to answer because while dialogue isn't based on real conversations or people, I'm always trying to make it sound right, natural, crisp. No speechifying. No planting information in the dialogue. I don't want everyone to sound the same, and since Faith is half my age, I ran a few expressions by younger people. (One I remember was "didn't sleep a wink." Was that from another era? My son said no, it's fine.)

 

I'm constantly paring sentences down and following something David Mamet said, quoting the screenwriter William Goldman: "Get into a scene as late as possible and leave it as early as possible." To me, that means cut out the "hello, how are you?" and the "okay, good-bye, see you next time." Sometimes I cover the opening dialogue with my hand to see how far and late I can start an exchange.

 

BTC: Can you give us a sneak peek at what you’re working on next?
EL: Sure. I'm more than half-way through, and it centers around a heavily notated high school yearbook that a woman bequeaths to her daughter. Why was the original owner so obsessed with this class? Complications ensue! No title yet.
 

BTC: Were you always a reader? What was your favorite book as a child? Who are some of your favorite contemporary novelists?
EL: Yes, always a huge reader, especially as a child, aided by the no-TV-on-school-nights rule. I re-read my favorites literally dozens of times. Most beloved was Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster. I adored Anne of Green Gables, Pollyanna and read every Nancy Drew.

 

Contemporary favorites: Stephen McCauley, Anita Shreve, Maria Semple, Stacy Schiff, Jill McCorkle, Laura Lippman, Tom Perrotta, Maggie O'Farrell, Philip Roth. I love memoirs; two recent ones I flipped over (as audio books) are Trevor Noah's Born a Crime and All Who Go Do Not Return by Shulem Deen.  

 

BTC: I know your first novel Then She Found Me was made into a charming movie starring Helen Hunt and Colin Firth. First, did you get to meet Colin Firth? How was the process of having your book turned into a movie? Are any of your other novels being made into movies? Who would be your dream cast if On Turpentine Lane was made into a movie?
EL: I didn't get to meet Colin Firth — the only star of Then She Found Me I didn't meet!

 

I loved having the book made into a movie, even though the plot departed greatly from the novel. I'd been prepared for that. "Think of it as a movie based on a character suggested by the novel," a Hollywood-savvy friend told me. (I wrote about the experience in my essay collection, I Can't Complain.) It took 19 years from first bite, the option, to the screen in 2008, so I was very inclined to love it.

 

My dream cast for On Turpentine Lane would be Emma Stone and Mark Ruffulo…well, Mark Ruffulo at 35. Or how about if Jessica Chastain turns to romantic comedy? She lives in my building, and I'm going to give her a signed copy ASAP.


 
 

ALA Youth Media Awards

posted by: January 23, 2017 - 11:08am

Cover art for Radiant ChildCover art for The Girl Who Drank the MoonCover art for March Book Three

 

The most prestigious awards for teen and children's literature were announced by the American Library Association in Atlanta earlier this morning. Awards were given in a wide range of categories that covered all formats and age levels. A complete list of awards, winners and honorees can be found in this morning's press release from the American Library Association.

 

The Caldecott Medal is awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children. This year’s winner is Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michael Basquiat written and illustrated by Javaka Steptoe. Basquiat was a Brooklyn-based artist in the 1980s and, while the book does not include any of his work, Steptoe brings the art of that era to the page by layering paint, paper scraps, paint tubes and photos on found-wood panels. Caldecott Honor winners include Leave Me Alone!, written and illustrated by Vera Brosgol, Freedom in Congo Square, written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, Du Iz Tak?, written and illustrated by Carson Ellis and They All Saw a Cat, written and illustrated by Brendan Wenzel.

 

The oldest of the medals, the John Newbery Medal, is awarded to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. This year’s medal recipient is Kelly Barnhill for The Girl Who Drank the Moon, an epic fantasy that The New York Times Book Review said was “impossible to put down...as exciting and layered as classics like Peter Pan or The Wizard of Oz." The three books selected as Honor winners are Freedom Over Me by Ashley Bryan, The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz and Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk. Baltimore County Public Library’s own Jamie Watson served on this year’s Newbery Committee and she shares her thoughts on the process and some of her favorite past winners in this Between The Covers interview.

 

The Michael L. Printz Award annually honors the best book written for teens, based entirely on its literary merit. This year’s winner is March: Book Three, written by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell. Congressman John Lewis, a living icon of the civil rights movement, brings his honest and unflinching account of the movement’s most tumultuous years in this graphic conclusion to his dynamic trilogy. Printz Honor awards went to Asking for It by Louise O’Neill, The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry, Scythe by Neal Shusterman and The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon.

 

The Coretta Scott King Awards are given to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values. It was a big day for Javaka Steptoe, who received the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award to add to his Caldecott Medal for Radiant Child. And more honors were heaped upon John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, who won the Coretta Scott King Author Award for March: Book Three, which also won the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award for most distinguished informational book for children and the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults.

 

BCPL has many of these titles in our collectionplace a hold on one or more today!


 
 

Between the Covers with Jamie Watson

posted by: January 18, 2017 - 7:00am

Jamie WatsonThe John Newbery Medal is a literary award given by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association (ALA). This annual award is given to the author of "the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children." The Newbery and Caldecott Medals are considered to be the most prestigious awards for children's literature in the United States.

 

The medal is decided by a committee elected by their peers and for the past year, Baltimore County Public Library’s Collection Development Coordinator Jamie Watson has been a member of this committee working hard to determine this year’s medal winner and honor books. Jamie sat down with me to share insight into the committee. Her passion for this committee work and children’s literature are evident! The Newbery Medal, along with the other ALA awards will be announced on Monday, January 23 in Atlanta.

 

Between the Covers: Please give us a brief overview of the process of committee member selection process for the Newbery Medal.

Jamie Watson: There are 15 people on the committee. Eight of them are elected during the American Library Association elections held in the spring. I was elected! You are nominated by your peers. Then, six more members and the committee chair are chosen by the president of the Association for Library Service to Children.

 

It was bittersweet being elected because one of my friends missed joining me on the committee by a mere three votes!

 

For librarians who might want to be on the committee, this has really been a long process of serving on other committees for the last 17 years, getting to know people, practicing book discussion skills and networking. It was something I knew I always wanted to do and I’m so pleased and honored to be doing it.

 

BTC: Is the committee given any criteria to choose its winners or does it come up with its on their own?
JW: There are very specific criteria, and I’ve probably read them 100 times or more over the last year! Here they are, direct from the manual:

 

Committee members need to consider the following:
• Interpretation of the theme or concept
• Presentation of information including accuracy, clarity and organization
• Development of a plot
• Delineation of characters
• Delineation of a setting
• Appropriateness of style

 

Note: Because the literary qualities to be considered will vary depending on content, the committee need not expect to find excellence in each of the named elements. The book should, however, have distinguished qualities in all of the elements pertinent to it.

 

This gets challenging because you might be comparing so many different types of books. How can you compare a picture book with a biography for middle grade readers with a book of poetry with a novel for 8-year-olds? Ultimately, you apply these criteria to each and every book, and see how well they stand up to it.

 

BTC: How does the committee decide which books to read? How many did you read this year?

JW: Publishers will send you books all throughout the year. You will read reviews. You will hear other people talking and speculating. However, it’s up to each individual committee member to decide which books to read. Also throughout the year, the members communicate by sending “suggestions” to the chair, who then compiles them and sends them to the entire committee. So you can see what things other committee members are reading and liking. But not which person, or why they liked them. It’s just a list that says “You might want to check these out.” I tried to balance reading well-reviewed things, reading suggested things and reading things I didn’t know much about just to see what might be getting overlooked. Everyone on the committee has their own approach.

 

I likely read in the vicinity of 200 books from cover to cover. I likely skimmed 200 more, or read just a bit of them. Some books that are on the list of nominations I’ve read twice, and a few even three times. I’ll be continuing to re-read right up to the deadline just to see what else I might have missed.

 

This is why serving on committees has made me a much kinder “second guesser” of awards committees. Even the most avid readers have likely not read this intensely and with this volume for a year. We are really looking HARD at these books, because we really want to make a great decision.

 

BTC: How is it all kept secret? How do you communicate with one another? What is the approximate timeline for the year? Do you have in-person meetings? How does the voting work?

JW: As of now, none of us have talked about the books to each other at all. We don’t know who nominated what, who likes what — nothing. We start fresh on January 20. There is NO DISCUSSION of the books AT ALL until we are behind that closed door on January 20. The chair communicated with us throughout the year, letting us know what people were suggesting and checking in with logistics, but our communications with each other were completely limited.

 

Keeping it secret is hard for a big talker like me, but I respect that the surprise adds such an extra layer to the announcement on Monday, January 23. I had to quit doing Goodreads for the year, which I really missed. I couldn’t say on Facebook “OMG I JUST READ THE BEST BOOK” because everyone would assume that meant it was on the fast track to the Newbery.

 

My time on the committee was from January, 2016 until June 2017. After we make the announcement, the hard work is done. But the final payoff is at the ALA Annual Conference in the summer, when the award is presented at the Newbery/Caldecott banquet. Here, committee members usually get to meet the author, often having dinner with him/her, and just enjoy the fruits of their labor. The author will give a speech, which has nearly moved me to tears even in years when I was not on the committee!

 

So, at conference in January, we will begin to discuss the books. We have two full days of discussion, and then we vote. You only get to vote for THREE books. If a clear winner isn’t determined after the first ballot, all books that received votes get rediscussed. And then you revote. You can’t leave the room on Saturday, January 21 until you have a winner. I’ve heard stories of tears and anger, (nothing specific, as it’s all secret forever, but rumors!) so I hope our voting process goes swimmingly!

 

BTC: How has being on the Newbery Committee impacted your job as a librarian?

JW: The hardest part really has been my inability to recommend titles that I’m reading to keep secrecy at its utmost. I really miss being able to enthuse as I go along! The other impact has been not being able to do everything I might normally. While I hope I kept up on my day-to-day job OK, there were extras that came my way that I couldn’t do this year. There’s only so much brain power you have!

 

BTC: What do you personally take away from being on the Newbery Committee?
JW: This is just such a huge honor. Seeing that seal on a book and knowing that I played a part in getting recognition for a book and an author that should be recognized is a great honor and responsibility. It also reminds me what got me into librarianship to begin with — a love of reading and books and story and literature. The passion for our duty is going to be overwhelming in that room in Atlanta, and I’ll carry it with me forever!

 

BTC: What was your favorite book as a child? Do you have a favorite Newbery winner?

JW: As a kid, without question my favorite Newbery book, and still one of my favorite books of all time, is From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg.

 

Most of the time in recent years, because I read a lot of children’s books, I have read the Newbery before it was announced. The one that made me the happiest was Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo. I’m also a big fan of When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.
But that’s another difference between OBSERVING and picking a winner. “Which book did you like best” is NOT a criteria. You can angle it and say “The plot was developed so well” or etc., but it really doesn’t matter if you LIKE it. You have to be impartial and unemotional and just say “DID THIS WORK?”

 

I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.


 
 

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