It’s Literally Wednesday

What makes a book a children’s book?

Once upon a time, everyone knew what a children’s book was.  Adults only read them if they had kids, and only until the kids were reading on their own.

Then came the Harry Potter books.  J.K. Rowling converted millions of adults into readers of books for kids.  The success of that series also caused publishers to rethink the definition of children’s fiction, directing more books with more pages, more complex plots, and darker content into the hands of younger readers.

The result has been an fascinating blurring of the lines.

“There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.” is the opening line of The Graveyard Book, in which most of an entire family is slaughtered in the first chapter.  For this, Neil Gaiman (who has written everything from picture books to graphic novels to superb adult fiction) was awarded the Newbery Medal for “distinguished contribution to American literature for children” in 2009.  Despite the initial gore, it is an amazingly excellent book.  Even for kids. Continue reading “It’s Literally Wednesday”

It’s Literally Time To “Play Ball”

Major League Baseball’s 2012 season got off to an unusual start last week — in Japan — with the A’s and M’s splitting a pair.  The Braves start play at the dysfunctional Mets tomorrow and have their home opener against Milwaukee a week from Friday.  (Brewers … Friday the 13th … What could possibly go wrong?)

Baseball in Art

Best Baseball Song: “Centerfield,” by John Fogerty.

Best Baseball Painting: “Three Umpires,” by Norman Rockwell.

Best Baseball Poem (it is National Poetry Month): it will be forever hard to top Ernest Thayer’s “Casey at the Bat.”

Best Baseball Musical Extravaganza: John McCutcheon and Chuck Brodsky will meet for nine innings of ballpark songs in a sort of musical/athletic competition that has become an annual tradition in honor of opening day.  (John, a highly accomplished multi-instrumentalist, is also a children’s book author.)  They will be joined by Atlanta Braves organist Matthew Kaminski.  Eddie’s Attic, Thursday, April 5th at 8 pm.

Not the Best Baseball Book Ever: The Great American Novel, by Philip Roth (great writer, great effort, but it just didn’t hit a home run for me; maybe a stand-up double).

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It’s Literally Wednesday

Q & A with Amber Dermont

Author Amber Dermont, a professor of English at Agnes Scott College, will be giving a reading at Eagle Eye Book Shop (2076 N. Decatur Rd.) this Saturday, March 31st, at 1 p.m.

The Starboard Sea was published a few weeks ago to critical acclaim in the Little Blog of Stories, received not one, but two rave reviews in The New York Times, a Washington Post review comparing it favorably to The Great Gatsby, and to The Catcher in the Rye and A Separate Peace by the Winnipeg Free Press.  It quickly found a place on the New York Times Best Sellers list.  This is a stunning achievement for a debut novel.  We’re incredibly fortunate to have such an amazing new talent right here in Decatur.

The Atlantic Ocean plays a major — and mostly dark — role in The Starboard Sea.  I understand that you grew up on Cape Cod, but was curious as to your relationship with the ocean?

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It’s Literally Wednesday

The Hunger Games!

“The Hunger Games,” the most anticipated film in the history of Little Shop of Stories, comes out on Friday.  For the super eager, most every theater, including AMC North DeKalb 16, will be having midnight showings tomorrow night.  (Plug: Little Shop is hosting a Hunger Games Party on Thursday at 7 p.m.)

The movie is based on the first book in Suzanne Collins’ young adult trilogy, which has been a publishing phenomena.  For the uninitiated, the books are set in a post-apocalyptic future in which the the known world has been reduced to twelve districts.  In retaliation against an uprising, the sadistic government invented the Hunger Games, a reality television program in which 24 teenage contestants — one girl and one boy from each district — meet in a fight to the death.

Though this is an undeniably unusual premise for a YA novel — and the books are indeed dark — the series is extremely compelling and the epitome of great storytelling.  Scholastic creatively marketed the novel (as has Lionsgate for the movie).  I have no doubt that Katniss Everdeen, the series’ narrator, will long be regarded as one of the great characters of children’s literature.

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