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In line with our Authors Doing Audiobooks post, we also brainstormed some actors we’d enjoy as narrators:

willowsJim Dale–Return to the Willows (Lisa: definitely Jim Dale. He’s awesome.)

The FitzOsbornes in Exile as a BBC radio play (also, Penelope Wilton aka Isobel Crawley aka Harriet Jones as Aunt Charlotte)

Michelle Fairley–A Greyhound of a Girl

Stephen Fry–The Cheshire Cheese Cat

ToysComeHomeAmy Poehler–Toys Come Home series

David Tennant–Warrior Sheep (because it would be fun to hear him rap)

Nathan Fillion–the Origami Yoda books

What are your actor/kid lit dream combinations?

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Without considering their oratory skills, we did some wishful thinking and compiled a (by no means comprehensive) list of authors we’d like to follow Neil Gaiman, Jack Gantos, and Lemony Snicket’s example…and narrate the books they wrote.

The Grande Dames:

waitingLois Lowry: Gossamer (sob) and The Giver quartet (double sob)

Susan Cooper: The Dark Is Rising sequence (gritty English accent and fantasy = win)

Katherine Paterson: everything (triple sob)

Patricia MacLachlan: Waiting for the Magic (because she was unexpectedly snarky at The Exquisite Corpse and that would work well for WftM)

The Great Uncles You Wish You Had

Richard Peck: everything but The River Between Us

Michael Morpurgo: War Horse

team human (more…)

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susan_cooperBeloved and best known for her The Dark Is Rising fantasy sequence, legendary author Susan Cooper introduced her latest novel, Ghost Hawk, to audiences at Porter Square Books yesterday evening.

Growing up in England during WWII, Cooper studied English under professors J.R.R. Tolkien (who mumbled during lectures) and C.S. Lewis (who had a flair for Renaissance literature). Because the Oxford curriculum extended only to 1832, she “inhaled myths” at university and read lots of Beowulf, Malory, and Spenser. As one friend put it, “they taught us to believe in dragons!” This, combined with her childhood experiences of being read to in bomb shelters during air raids and walking to school with a schoolbag and a gas mask slung over her shoulders, imbued her writing with a strong sense of place and Good & Evil–no surprise to anyone who’s read The Dark is Rising.

The concept for her “most challenging book yet” hatched from Cooper’s interest in place–this time, the woods surrounding her house in Marshfield, Massachusetts. After a trip to the library, she discovered the land she lived on was once inhabited by the Pokanoket tribe before the English deeded it to a man who was, of all things, a cooper.

ghost_hawkFrom there, she started to wonder how local relations between English settlers and Native American deteriorated so rapidly between the first Thanksgiving dinner and King Philip’s War just sixty years later. “I became obsessed with knowing what went wrong,” Cooper said, but “I wasn’t going to write a history book. I’m a storyteller. I make things up.” So she invented the characters of Little Hawk and John Wakely, who, despite their circumstances, develop a genuine but dangerous friendship.

That’s not to say Cooper’s research wasn’t extensive. She read piles of books and archival materials and all of Roger Williams’ letters. The process of writing Ghost Hawk became as mucha voyage of discovery” for herself as Little Hawk and John Wakely’s story is for us. As for the shocking turn of events midway through the book, Cooper assures readers that despite her penchant for brooding myths and her wartime upbringing, because she writes for children, she always leaves the last line of everything not in despair but with hope.

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cover_wtmmtmWe’re always jealous of people who live in New York when it comes to their proximity to plays and musicals based on kids’ books (we’re still dreaming of seeing Matilda). But the upcoming theater season in Boston makes us glad to be where we are:

The Hobbit (Oct 25 – Nov 24): strategically timed to coincide with the movie. We’re especially looking forward to the Smaug puppet. Since it’s at the Wheelock Family Theatre, will the dwarves be played by kids and teens?

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy (Oct 31 – Nov 3): will be monumentally depressing (how will they stage the whale?). Better bring tissues. Don’t think we’ll be okay for now when we leave the theater.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (Apr 11- May 11, 2014): Another dragon on stage! And good incentive for me to read the book before May, when WtMMtM makes its East Coast debut, also at the Wheelock.

Also, in non-kidlit theater news, at least two local theater companies are putting on Chekov’s The Seagull this season. Would you recommend it? For those in the Boston area, please feel free to share productions we shouldn’t miss out on.

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There’s a certain type of book, the one that suddenly all the cool kids are reading. Even before it’s published, it generates lots of buzz as an ARC. Then enough stars are heaped upon it to form a major constellation. Maybe it’ll win an award or two. By the time you actually get a copy from the library (and there are 349 requests on the first returned copy and only five copies in circulation), you’re so excited you start reading it on the spot. And you know what, now that you actually have your hands on it, you can’t see what all the fuss is about.

Most recently, I experienced this with Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell. I was all set to like it. A tale of two high school misfits and their down-to-earth progression from dislike to friendship to first love? A shared obsession of comic books? Not a single head-scratching ominous prophecy of epic proportions in sight? A big fat stamp of approval from John Green and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards? And not to be superficial, but a stylized book jacket as sleek as an Apple product? Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes!

(more…)

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Once again, our friends were nice enough to help us doodle at the table.

First up, it’s Harry, Ron and Hermione:

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They look happy…

…until you realize they're standing on a rabbit-rat version of Voldemort shooting carrots and lasers out of its eyes.

…until you realize they’re standing on a rabbit-rat version of Voldemort shooting carrots and lasers out of its eyes.

(more…)

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Recreating Montmaray

For our latest covershoot, we decided to have a real person model for the camera. We chose The FitzOsbornes in Exile, and coincidentally, our model’s name is Sophie (she’s also an old friend).

Here’s what the cover looks like:

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We tried to recreate the pensive, depressing mood, but we shot on a beautiful sunny day. You be the judge–we even included two versions.

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And here’s the secret to our sophisticated lighting (Jen was behind the camera. Lisa held the all-important posterboard).

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ETA: for more pictures from the shoot, visit here.

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We’d like to present a phenomenon we’ve coined The Code Name Verity Effect. It is such that things (historical persons, foods, locations, activities, and items) mentioned in Elizabeth Wein’s novel become suddenly more interesting. 

For example:

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Lord Nelson Mass!

1) We both sing, and we weren’t initially that thrilled about the choir’s summer piece–Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass–until we realized the title refers to Lord “Kiss me, Hardy!” Nelson of Code Name Verity fame. We are suddenly 1000x more excited for this piece.

2) Now we want to read Peter Pan so we can get all the inside jokes, too…Kipling, not so keen

Maddie's mittens.

Maddie’s mittens.

3) Lisa wants to take up knitting because of Maddie’s gloves (Jen has already bookmarked the pattern!)

4) After reading so much about soft-boiled eggs at Castle Craig (and the devastating scene in France), Lisa really wants to eat an egg from an egg cup, the proper way

5) Jen is willing to try Maddie’s pickled onion sandwiches, eye-watering though they are

Combat boots are cool!

Combat boots are cool!

6) Combat boots are cool! #takethatDoctorWho

7) Our new dream vacation involves seeing the green flash over the Pennines. Let’s throw in the Holy Island seals too.

Have you noticed the Code Name Verity Effect at play in your life? How about with other books?

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After reading Lisa Graff’s A Tangle of Knots, we couldn’t help but wonder about Cady’s cake recipes. Cady has a Talent for being able to sense and then bake a person’s ideal cake. Out of all the recipes, we thought we’d enjoy Mrs. Asher’s Honey Cake–surprisingly spicy for such a sweet cake–the most (until peaches come back in season), so we gave it a go.

Here’s the recipe, excerpted from the book:

a small sliver of butter (for greasing the cake pan)

2 1/3 cups flour (plus extra for preparing the cake pan)

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

2 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp allspice

2/3 cup vegetable oil

2/3 cup honey

1 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 large eggs, at room temperature

3/4 tsp vanilla

1 cup coffee, at room temperature

1/3 cup orange juice, at room temperature

(more…)

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AKA where awesome people give out books to encourage reading (fun fact: the concept for World Book Day (and Night…for adults, because they stay up later) comes from Spain, where Cervantes’ birthday is traditionally celebrated by women giving men books and men returning the favor by giving women…flowers. Which might not be as appreciated, unless you’re Vanessa Diffenbaugh, author of The Language of Flowers.)

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Vanessa Diffenbaugh (left) and Lisa Genova (right)

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Neil Gaiman


Diffenbaugh was one of the speakers, along with neuroscientist and author Lisa Genova and writer Neil Gaiman. They spoke about how they began writing, their writing process, books they wish they had written (Neil Gaiman, as a young boy, carried with him at all times a copy of The Lord of the Rings, in the event he ever found himself transported to a parallel universe where Tolkien did not exist, and where he could claim credit for the series) and how they are sometimes surprised by plots that run away from them. All in all, it was a funny, interesting, and inspiring night–especially hearing their advice to budding writers: be persistent, make time to actually write (Genova recommends three pages of stream-of-consciousness as a daily warm-up), and you will get better.

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