Wonderful New Picture Book: 'Waking Dragons'

When illustrator-author Derek Anderson visited the Malletts Creek Branch of the AADL in October, I watched as Ann Arbor children and adults fell under his spell. Sketching shapes looked like such fun! Anderson even talked a bit about his life and career. Afterwards I was drawn to buy his book, Waking Dragons and to have it signed for my son. I took the book home, read it, and stole it back for myself.

This picture book, written by master storyteller Jane Yolen, is beautiful and magical, and brought to life by Anderson's gold-washed paintings. After the dragons "bumble" and "tumble" out of bed, the determined boy-knight who is in charge of them prepares a delicious breakfast of waffles -- served from a catapult -- in time for the dragons to fly the boy off to Knight School. As you read the rhymes, don't miss the humor, such as the sign on the fire extinguisher, "In Case of Dragon Breath."

Anderson probably is best known for his Little Quack books, but I'm also a fan of Gladys Goes Out to Lunch. For more good reading for adults, go to Derek's web page, and read "In the Studio: A Creative Journal." Fascinating.

December's Books to Film

Lay the Favorite (MPAA Rating: R) , Rebecca Hall, Bruce Willis, Vince Vaughn star in this adaptation of Beth Raymer's Lay the favorite: a memoir of gambling who transforms from a stripper in Tallahassee to gambler's assistant in Las Vegas,working for Dink, one of the most successful sports gamblers in the business.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (MPAA Rating: PG-13), yet another adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit : or, There and back again. Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, Richard Armitage star in this adventure of Bilbo Baggins, who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug.

Jack Reacher (MPAA Rating: PG-13) is based on Lee Child popular thriller series featuring Jack Reacher, a drifter and a former US Army Police major with authority issues. This feature film is adapted from the novel One Shot. The selection of Tom Cruise to play Reacher has been highly controversial, and you don't want to know what I think.

When a gunman takes five lives with six shots, all evidence points to the suspect in custody. On interrogation, the suspect offers up a single note: "Get Jack Reacher!" So begins an extraordinary chase for the truth, pitting Jack Reacher against an unexpected enemy, with a skill for violence and a secret to keep.

Needing no introduction is the highly anticipated release of Les Misérables (MPAA Rating: PG-13) based on Victor Hugo's novel. Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, it tells an enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption --- a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit. Hugh Jackman plays ex-prisoner Jean Valjean, hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert (Russell Crowe) after he breaks parole. When Valjean agrees to care for factory worker Fantine's (Anne Hathaway) young daughter, Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), their lives change forever.

The Hobbit Is Back Again

Are you ready?! J.R.R. Tolkein’s epic tale of The Hobbit is being released as a feature film trilogy, and this Friday the first part, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, opens in theaters. It’s amazing to think that The Hobbit was released in book form in 1937!

For some this means preparing by rereading the book, or watching film versions of the 3 books that followed The Hobbit known as The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, which includes The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and Return of the King. Those 3 films were directed by Peter Jackson, and he’s back to direct The Hobbit Trilogy as well. It’s been a decade since Jackson last had us watching Tolkein on the big screen, so the new films have been highly anticipated. This film also features new technology! Films have been shot at 24 frames per second for 90 years, and now we have a mainstream film that at select theaters will be shown at the high frame rate (HFR) of 48 frames per second, and in 3D. There's debate over the quality of this format and as to whether or not it is actually a more complete film experience. I personally plan to see it the plain old-fashioned way of 24fps and in 2D.

What are we talking about? The Hobbit, Or There and Back Again is the story of a conservative hobbit named Bilbo Baggins who heads off on an epic quest to reclaim Lonely Mountain and its treasure from the dragon Smaug. Along the way is high adventure and many encounters with other creatures, namely the band of dwarves that he travels with. It is on this journey that Bilbo meets the creature Gollum, and where he first lays hands on “the one ring” that changes his life, and that of Middle Earth, for all time.

For the super fans there are some new informational books that accompany the film, including:

The hobbit: An unexpected journey : official movie guide
The hobbit : An unexpected journey : the movie storybook
The hobbit: The unexpected journey : the world of the hobbits
The hobbit: An unexpected journey : visual companion

2012 Teen NBA Winner Announced

NBA winner medalNBA winner medal

Goblin Secrets has received the 2012 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Rownie, the youngest in Graba the witchworker's household of stray children, escapes and goes looking for his missing brother. Along the way he falls in with a troupe of theatrical goblins and learns the secret origins of masks. Now Graba's birds are hunting him in the Southside of Zombay, the Lord Mayor's guards are searching for him in Northside, and the River between them is getting angry. The city needs saving—and only the goblins know how. Don’t miss Goblin Secrets!

Author William Alexander studied theater and folklore at Oberlin College and English at the University of Vermont. He currently lives, writes, and teaches in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His short stories have been published in many magazines and anthologies, including Weird Tales, Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, Interfictions 2, and Fantasy: The Best of the Year 2008. Catch an interview with William on The Enchanted Inkpot.

2012 National Book Award winners have been announced

Last night, the The National Book Award winners for 2012 were announced at a gala event at the posh Cipriani on Wall Street.

The big winners were:

Louise Erdrich, 58, received the fiction award for The Round House. An adult Joe Coutts looks back in time when, as a teenager, he went in search of the man who brutalized his mother on an Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota. This winning title is part two of a trilogy. The Coutts family was first introduced in The Plague of Doves (2008). Erdrich's win is especially poignant as, shortly after she started writing The Round House, she was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer, which she has beat.Ms. Erdrich, who is part Ojibwe, delighted last night's audience by addressing some of her remarks in her tribal tongue.

Katherine Boo, 48, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer for the The New Yorker, received the nonfiction award for Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life,Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, a wrenching account of a teenage boy who lives in the slums that are hidden from view by some of India's luxury hotels.

Poet David Ferry, 88, tearfully accepted what he described as "preposterous pre-posthumous award" for his Bewilderment; New Poems and Translations. "We're all in this apart" (From FoundSingle-Line Poems). Ferry has a PhD from Harvard and is the Sophie Chantal Hart Professor Emeritus of English at Wellesley, where he taught for many years.

William Joseph Alexander, 36, is a first-time novelist who captured the Young People's Literature prize for his fantasy, Goblin Secrets. In this steampunk/witch-infested tale, Rownie escapes Graba who 'adopts' orphans to do her bidding, and sets out on a quest to find his missing older brother.

Rounding out the evening, host Faith Salie, a media star on NPR, the BBC and CBS Sunday Morning, bestowed two special awards. Detroit author, Elmore Leonard, 88, accepted the Distinguished Contribution to American Letters prize. New York Times publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., 61, was honored for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community. NPR's Fresh Air host, Terry Gross, introduced Mr. Sulzberger and said the New York Times Book Review was like "...a shopping catalog...[for] authors I've overlooked."

Each winner received $10,000.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #362

Award-winning poet Douglas Nicholas beautifully evokes 13th century England in his debut novel Something Red *, " a haunting story of love, murder, and sorcery. "

It was the coldest winter in memory, Mistress Molly, a traveling Irish healer must find shelter in the Pennine Mountains for her troupe before heavy snow set in. They sought refuge in a monastery where they first became aware of the presence of a mysterious evil force. There they met fellow travelers both humble and high-born, and soon realized that danger was lurking around them. Nothing was as it seemed, and the journey for survival was as magical as it was perilous.

"An intoxicating blend of fantasy and mythology, Something Red presents an enchanting world full of mysterious and fascinating characters - shapeshifters, sorceresses, warrior monks, and knights, where no one is safe from the terrible being that lurks in the darkness".

"Nicholas puts his flair for language and imagery to good use in his atmospheric first novel....A wickedly clever and evocative combination of history, horror, mystery, and magic."

* = starred review

Illusions, Wonders and Nights at the Circus

Lose yourself inside the black-and-white world of Le Cirque des Rêves, the enchanting fantasy world in Erin Morgenstern's debut novel, The Night Circus. Morgenstern weaves a tale of illusion, passion, romance and rivalry between two illusionists set in a 19th century circus. This novel is a feast for the senses, a magical ride for a reader who loves a slowly-unfolding story full of descriptive and elegant prose and detailed imagery.

Le Cirque des Rêves, or The Circus of Dreams, is not an ordinary circus. It arrives in towns without warning, mysteriously, as if appearing out of thin air. It opens at dusk and closes at dawn, and houses within its wrought-iron gates black-and-white tents full of grand illusions and hidden magic.

The circus itself is a remarkable world, but ultimately serves as a performance space for the two key characters, Celia Bowen (the daughter of a famed illusionist, Prospero the Enchanter) and Marco Alisdair (student of the Mysterious Mr. A.H.). The two illusionists are unwillingly – and for a time, unknowingly – pitted against each other in a game of magical talent and ingenuity. The game is simple: the best illusionist wins, the loser pays a terrible price. But when love gets in the way… the price may be higher than Celia or Marco could have anticipated.

October's Books to Film

The Paperboy is based on Peter Dexter's novel, the enthralling story of two brothers (Matthew McConaughey and Zac Efron) who investigate a case involving a death row inmate (John Cusack). Convinced by a mysterious woman (Nicole Kidman) that the inmate is innocent, the brothers embark on a journey that is filled with betrayal.

Pitch Perfect (PG-13) is based on Mickey Rapkin's Pitch Perfect:The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory. In this new comedy, Beca arrives at her new college, she finds herself not right for any clique but somehow is muscled into one that she never would have picked on her own: alongside mean girls, sweet girls and weird girls whose only thing in common is how good they sound when they sing together. "Loaded with new takes on old favorites to hits of right now that are seamlessly mixed together, mashed-up and arranged like you've never heard before" .

Starring Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, Alexis Knapp, Elizabeth Banks, Rebel Wilson, and directed by Jason Moore of the Broadway sensation Avenue Q, the musical.

Putting a new spin on the Emily Brontë classic, Wuthering Heights is the love story between Heathcliff, a boy taken in by a kind father and Cathy, the farmer's young daughter. This film adaptation promises to be beautiful and evocative, bringing a somewhat more modern take on an old favorite.

Fans of James Patterson's Alex Cross series will be pleased to see the young homicide detective/psychologist (Tyler Perry) coming to life and facing off with a serial killer (Matthew Fox). When the high-stakes game of cat and mouse gets personal, Cross is pushed to the edge of his moral and psychological limits in this taut and exciting action thriller, entitled Alex Cross (PG-13).

Filled with action, romance and mystery, Cloud Atlas (R rated) is a breathtaking adaptation of the novel (also in audio) by David Mitchell - six interwoven stories that leads up to a post-apocalyptic dystopian version of a Pacific Island nation. It explores how the actions and consequences of individual lives impact one another throughout the past, the present and the future, how one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero and a single act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution in the distant future.

Starring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, and Hugh Grant.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #356

Anyone interested in rollicking adventure, puzzle-solving/code-breaking, the history of books and printing, digital technology, conspiracy theory, secret societies, quirky San Francisco (Did I catch just about everybody?) would find Robin Sloan's Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore * immensely enjoyable. (Coming out in October, I will be doing a lot of hand-selling in the meantime. Get on the waiting list if I were you. )

It didn't take long for Clay Jannon, an unemployed graphic artist/web designer to realize that Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is anything but the obvious. Working the grave-yard shift, his customers never buy but "borrow" archaic volumes according to some elaborate scheme. Mr. Penumbra's strict missive of never looking into any of the volumes produces just the opposite effect and soon, Clay finds himself, and his willing dot.com recruits plunging (Googlers figure prominently in the plot and the solution) head-long into a heroic quest of complex code-breaking, high-tech data visualization, and digging at the truth behind secrets that reach back to the famous Venetian printer Aldus­ Manutius. "A gleeful and exhilarating tale".

"With irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Robin Sloan has crafted a literary adventure story for the twenty-first century, evoking both the fairy-tale charm of Haruki Murakami and the enthusiastic novel-of-ideas wizardry of Neal Stephenson or a young Umberto Eco, but with a unique and feisty sensibility that's rare to the world of literary fiction."

Debut novelist Robin Sloan, a native of Michigan is a gradate of Michigan State University (Economics). He was a member of the Media Partnerships team at Twitter before becoming a writer and a "media inventor".

* = starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #354

Two debut novels sharing the same title, each very distinct and worlds apart. But fantastic, just the same.

In Silver * * by Rhiannon Held, Andrew Dare, a werewolf enforcer/protector for the Roanoke pack, picks up a scent no one has ever encountered. It belongs to beautiful "Silver" - wild and crazy, having been tortured and injected with silver into her veins.

She represents a terrible threat to every Were on the continent unless Andrew join forces with her. While tracking down her attacker and the menace behind the threat, they discover their own power and their passion for each other. "Urban fantasy takes a walk on the wild side"

"The combination of engaging characters and a well-developed world will leave readers anxiously awaiting the next installment. A must-read for fans of Kelley Armstrong's Bitten (2001), another compelling werewolf story".

For perilous game of pack politics, try Toby Barlow's award-winning Sharp Teeth * *.

For fans of the recent crop of exceptional urban fantasies of Glen Duncan's The Last Werewolf, and Anne Rice's The Wolf Gift.

Silver: return to Treasure Island * by biographer and UK poet laureate Andrew Motion, is a sequel to Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. It picks up twenty years later and finds Natty, the daughter of Long John Silver, teaming up with Hawkins' son, Jim, on a dangerous voyage to the legendary island in search of their fathers' hidden treasure.

This "clever and satisfying high-seas tale of madness and brutality, treachery and courage, resourcefulness and romance" is not to be missed.

* = starred review
* * = starred reviews

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