Monday, December 8, 2014

Hits the hard stuff; sees stars

My audience-versus-subject preposition obsession is well documented. “About not for 4eva,” and whatnot. So can you see why The Bunker Diary reviews fill me with such perverse delight?

“The Bunker Diary: why wish this book on a child?

“The winner of this year’s Carnegie Medal for an outstanding book for children is a vile and dangerous story. Kevin Brooks’s book contains heroin addiction, attempted rape, torture and murder[…]

“As Brooks revealed in his acceptance speech, he fought for 10 years to get this novel into print, and was repeatedly told that it wouldn’t work for children unless he changed the plot to allow for the possibility of hope. He won the day and, as it stands, his novel is a uniquely sickening read.”

The Telegraph

“Brooks’ latest is not an easy novel, but it’s one that begs for rereading to suss the intricacies of its construction of plot, character development and insight into the human condition.

“Not for everyone, this heady novel is worthy of study alongside existentialist works of the 20th century.”

—starred, Kirkus

It's not a title for everyone: some may be unsettled by the harsh realities the protagonist faces, while others will be fascinated by the simple complexity of Brooks's prose and truly effective storytelling. A unique choice that will get teens talking."

—starred, School Library Journal

"When this latest book from controversy-stirrer Brooks won the 2014 Carnegie Medal in the UK, up piped a familiar chorus of damnation from the frequently scandalized. It was too bleak, too dark, not for kids. The naysayers almost got it right: it is, rather,for everyone, playing just as well as can't-stop-reading entertainment as it does an allegorical passage into darkness.”

—starred, Booklist

Delightful. Just delightful. Keep ‘em coming. (Gratuitous Merle GIF for Carrie. Mr. Kraus of Booklist is welcome over for a drink anytime.)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A chain of events

So I got this email a couple years ago.


And I followed Tess’s advice, and I bought the  manuscript, and Kate worked like crazy on it.

And for a while I thought this guy:

Was as imaginary as this guy:

Kate straightened me out eventually, and she still liked me enough that she told me about this stuff:

Which tastes way better than it photographs.

Eventually, we published this last spring:

And it went pretty well (⋆⋆⋆⋆, etc.).

And then today this happened.

Good year, eh?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Down from their towers

First, Margaret Willey has a tremendously interesting and very honest essay on L’Engle’s Camilla and the long history of YA girls at the Horn Book website right now, and you should read it. It’s a window into why she is a joy to edit and publish.

I remember a long-ago conversation with my sister while we were still young women, and before I had written a novel of adolescence. We swore that we would not forget, if and when we had our own daughters, the power of first love. And I did not so much forget it as I was uneasy writing about it — the mother in me perhaps. I did not want to encourage my readers to enter that place of obsession and treachery and, yes, sometimes ecstasy, without having a clear way out. And I did not know yet, as a writer and an adult woman, how to faithfully re-create the misery and confusion of my own early sexual experiences. For these reasons, I was very well-suited for the phase of young adult literature that I came up in, an era of sensitive and articulate girl narrators who wanted romlengle camilla Girls in Towersantic connection without the complications of having sexual intercourse. In love with love, yes. Sexually curious, perhaps. But sexually active, never.

The whole thing is here.

Now, though, for extra credit, I’d like to poke and prod at the girls-in-towers premise. I don’t think every 1950s teenage girl was up in a tower, and I do think the tower itself is a mark of certain kind of privilege and class. And I think those 1950s tower/penthouse dwellers looked out their windows, not only at the familiar and tidy streets of their own neighborhoods but at the alleys of the distant, unknown neighborhoods as well.  Here, for example, young Humbert and Annabel look down from their tower enviously in Lolita:

All at once we were madly, clumsily, shamelessly, agonizingly in love with each other; hopelessly, I should add, because that frenzy of mutual possession might have been assuaged only by our actually imbibing and assimilating every particle of each other's soul and flesh; but there we were, unable even to mate as slum children would have so easily found an opportunity to do so.

Sexual desire, opportunity, and experience are functions not only of biology and age but of class and race and many other other social factors. I understands Margaret’s fondness for a thread one finds less and less in today’s YA tapestry:

I could comfortably celebrate the innocence of these trysts. I could create girls, and also boys, who were longing for a partner, something beyond friendship, certainly, but also with the understanding that they were not ready for sex and did not need it.

But at the same time, I would argue the preeminence of that thread of innocence in the YA of ages past was also a flaw in that it became a constraining orthodoxy. If the YA of today is capturing that truth of adolescence more fully than the YA of times past because that orthodoxy is no more, then something good is happening—just so long as adolescent sexual precociousness and skill don’t take their turn in crowding out other experiences. 

In so many words, I want to see it all.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Let us now praise school visitors

G. Neri visits Krasnoufimsk, Russia

I get to work with many authors and illustrators who have school-visit schedules that would make your head spin. John Coy, Nancy Carlson, and Greg Neri to name only three Nancy Carlson takes input from students on what should be included in her doodle of her popular character Harriet. Harriet is based loosely on many of the experiences in Carlson’s own life. Carlson showed step by step the process she uses for drawing her favorite character.rack up more miles and passport stamps than I care to contemplate. I consider myself a good traveler and something of a road warrior where car trips are concerned, but I’ve seen school visit schedules that would make me cut up my driver’s license and let my passport expire. And as taxing as this work is, I think this travel is also one of the most important things authors and illustrators do today.

Don’t take my word for it though. John Coy has written with characteristic eloquence on the matter.

“Like any school visit, once I’ve agreed to come, teachers and librarians start preparing students. Because of those efforts, I never cancel and am reluctant to postpone. That’s true with winter driving in Minnesota, and it’s true with unforeseen situations at international schools.”

 Read his whole piece here.

Author John Coy speaks to West Carroll eighth-graders Thursday. Oct. 7, 2010, at West Carroll Middle School.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


The trilogy, completed.


The brilliant Laura Rinne designed each of these jackets, and she rose to the occasion each time John delivered a new manuscript. The Conformity will hit NetGalley soon, if you can’t stand the waiting.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

This is a call

I’m going to ask for something completely unfair.

Unless you attended opening night of this year’s Children’s and Young Adult Literature Conference at The Loft Literary Center, you probably haven’t seen the Czech film Who’s Afraid of the Wolf. The 2008 film was shown at The Loft thanks to a University of Minnesota professor’s connection to the filmmaker, I believe, and a lively panel discussion followed. Unfortunately, even with the magical Internet at our fingertips, I think the full-length movie is otherwise not very findable in the US.

Who’s Afraid of the Wolf is the story of a girl named Terezka and her parents, and it is striking for the stunningly authentic child’s perspective it conveys. Adult characters are portrayed with depth and good intentions and human flaws, yet for grownup viewers, the cinematography gives a peek back in time to how a kindergartener observes and interacts with her parents and others. Difficult conversations are heard from under the kitchen table or while pretending to focus on an activity across the room. Mom’s old acquaintance is a newcomer to Terezka’s family universe. Events and behaviors beyond a child’s scope of knowledge may as well be the work of aliens. Read a good summary here.

While the story is not limited to one perspective, it treats the child’s point of view with humbling respect and weight.

The trailer gives a decent idea:

Who is Afraid of the Wolf (international trailer) from Bionaut on Vimeo.

My inability to share the whole film with you is what makes this unfair: I’m looking for a picture book manuscript that wows me with similar authenticity. One in which the camera angle is from about three-and-a-half feet high. One that leaves my jaw hanging open at the voice or the way the narration transports me back into a six-year-old’s body. (Give or take a few years.) Especially, and critically, one that holds appeal for both children and the adults who may be reading with them, in the way this film is kid-friendly but no less engaging for adults.

A few notes that may or may not be relevant: I’m a linguist by training. The way the words fit together to paint a story is equally or more likely to woo me as/than any particular type of character, setting, or plot is. I generally don’t go for personified animals. We at Carolrhoda are more likely to publish picture books that are a bit offbeat and/or off the beaten path (think Infinity and Me). I’ll take dry humor and sharp wit any day over super-sweet or sentimental. I will never stop loving Winnie the Pooh.

Watch the trailer. Then send me submissions until October 31.

-Anna Cavallo (@eatreadwriterun)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

On adults reading YA

I had a prepared answer for this slide on today’s PW Webinar on YA. We never got to the question.


Indulge me.

I agree with one aspect all of these hand-wringing articles about adults reading YA have in common: I agree that reading time is precious and finite in a hectic world of boundless good writing.

Some adults may choose to spend their reading hours on anything but YA novels. Fair enough. Indeed, some adults may go farther and choose to spend a portion of their precious reading time writing about what they’re not reading in order to convince others not to read it either. Admirable self-sacrifice, that latter one.

However, as an adult reader myself, I make a different choice in my prioritization. I choose not to read vapid concern trolling about other people’s reading habits. I’ll get to The Goldfinch sooner that way.

To each his own, I guess.