Thursday, May 31, 2012

Janet's Three Nightmare-Producing and Two Comforting Equals Five Picks for May

I got hooked after seeing my daughter retreat to her room for days on end with the first of three. We have them, complete with a cookbook and a full-color guide to Panem. Only you can discover the true meaning of:
The Hunger Games by Suzannne Collins
(Scholastic Press, $8.99)
Catching Fire by Suzannne Collins
(Scholastic Press, $17.99)
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
(Scholastic Press, $17.99)

One Love, adapted by Cedella Marley (Chronicle Books, $16.99)
Love and harmony on every level are restored by this new release of Bob Marley's most sung melody, illustrated in bright joyous colors by Vanessa Brantley-Newton.

Tickle Time! by Sandra Boynton (Workman, $6.99)
"If you're feeling blue and you don't know what to do, there is nothing like a TICKLE TIME to make you feel like new." Need I say more?

Janet Elfant, May 2012

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cordelia Announces the 2012 Winner and Runners Up for the E. B. White Read-Aloud Awards for Picture Books

The E.B. White awards are given by the American Booksellers Association to books that "reflect the playful, well-paced language, the engaging themes, and the universal appeal to a wide range of ages embodied by E.B. White’s collection of beloved books." Every owner or staff member working in an independent bookstore is allowed to vote. Every year, at the annual ABA convention, the recipients of these awards are honored.

1. I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen (Candlewick, $15.99)

Honor Books:
2. Press Here by Herve Tuller (Chronicle, $15.99)
3. Stars by Mary Lyn Ray & Marla Frazee (Beach Lane Books, $16.99)
4. Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner & Christopher Silas Neal (Chronicle Books, $16.99)
5. Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Dunsky Rinker & Tom Lichtenheld (Chronicle Books, $16.99)

To see a full list of all the winners, check out:

Cordelia Jensen, May 2012

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Der Mai ist gekommen...

...and brings with it blue, blue skies, warm winds and an exuberance of colors and fragrances.

The month of May also contains National Children's Book Week; here are five favorites that will remain part of my family's literature journey FOREVER:

Grandfather Twilight by Barbara Berger (Puffin $6.99)

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Eric Carle (HenryHolt, $7.95 board, $16.99 hardcover)

If You Were My Bunny by Kate McMullan (Cartwheel, $6.99)

D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths (Random House, $29.99 hardcover, $19.99 paperback)

The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark by Jill Tomlinson (Egmont, $8.95)

Mesmerizing illustrations, sweet and heart warming story lines will make your and your children's heart happy and light.

AND these books will create unforgettable memories of cozy snuggle times (your teen will cringe now, but it’s all right).

Claudia Vesterby, May 2012

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Deep Cuts: Mecca Jamilah Sullivan's Writing Profile

We are re-posting our February 2010 interview with Mecca Jamilah Sullivan in honor of her reading here with us tomorrow!  Join us this Friday, May 11, from 7-9 pm for our Nor'easter Open Mic, featuring Sullivan and Nathan Long, with an hour of open mic to follow!  For more information, you can visit our site or the Nor'easter blog

Writing Profile: Mecca Jamilah Sullivan

February 22, 2010

1) How would you describe your writing?

I write fiction that is propelled by characters and their language. I’m always interested in people—who they are and how they’ve become that way, what they do and why they do it, how their decisions change their world, what experiences change them and force them to grow. I really enjoy walking for a while in characters’ heads and lives, figuring out how they think and how they speak. In many ways, I think our voices reflect the depths of who we are and what we’ve experienced. So as a lover of character-driven fiction, voice is really important to me, as well.

2) How does writing fit into your everyday life?

When writing isn’t a part of my day, I definitely notice its absence. Which doesn’t mean that I get to write fiction every day, of course. There are lots of days when I don’t write more than a to-do-list and a couple of belabored emails. I think it’s important for writers to acknowledge all of the different kinds of writing we do. I once took a course on print culture from the Renaissance era onward, where the professor drew our attention to all the various kinds of print we take in every day— the text on sugar packets, five billion kinds of street signs, the logos on the bottoms of our boots. I think writing is sort of the same way. We collage and troubleshoot words in so many ways, and spend lots of hidden time putting words together. I have good friends who treat nearly every email they send like a confection, kneading and pinching and frosting it until they feel it’s done.

Right now, I’m doing a lot of critical writing for my Ph.D., which is definitely different from my fiction. In many ways, though, it works the same muscle; almost any kind of writing gives us the chance to conjure up thoughts and images, then lasso them into being with words. Letters, journal entries, even to-do-lists, even business memos, I imagine, can offer moments of play. On days when I don’t get to write fiction, I try to really enjoy the creative aspects of whatever I am writing. But I make a note of it, and my day does feels a little different. I feel best when I’m creating things with words.

3) What authors and/or poets and writers inspire you?

Oh, there are so many. I am a huge, huge fan of Toni Morrison. I recently rediscovered her short story “Recetatif,” and sort of fell tragically and beautifully in awe all over again. I admire her for so many reasons, and talking about her always feels to me like trying to talk about love, to anatomize it. Her narrators are always completely authoritative and yet infinitely supple—they let you know that they have an important story to tell and that they are in control of that story, but they somehow also charm you into listening, settling in, going along for the ride, no matter how challenging and even painful it may be. I have similar feelings about Virginia Woolf, especially in To The Lighthouse, and Ralph Ellison, and William Faulkner. Jamaica Kincaid’s narrative voices always make me itch for a pen. As does Gayl Jones’s imagination, and James Joyce’s, too.

And there are lots of younger contemporary writers whose work inspires me. Junot Diaz, Edwidge Danticat, and Sapphire stand out as models of folks who explore multiple worlds and multiple experiences—hip-hop culture, immigrant culture, issues of sexuality and gender, exile and alienation, all kinds of fusions and fractures—on a contemporary urban stage that my generation can relate to. I grew up in Harlem in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and I think I’ll always be drawn to stories rooted in that kind of time and place. The voices of rappers like Queen Latifah, Sugar Hill Gang, and the Notorious B.I.G. loom about as large for me as a lot of these authors I’ve mentioned. So I admire writers who’ve been able to tap into the urgency and complexity of young, urban voices and bring them to other parts of the world.

4) How does the community of Philadelphia play a part in your writing?

Philly has always felt like a home away from home for me. My mother was born and raised in North Philly, and that side of my family is still here. On a basic level, Philly and writing have always gone together for me. Throughout elementary school, I would come and spend a week or two of my summer vacation with my grandmother, and I’d always do a lot of writing. Every morning she’d clip the Cryptogram word puzzle from the Inquirer for me, and I’d do the puzzle and then write little stories based on whatever the quote turned out to be.

Now, Philly’s writing community is a sort of home-base for me. Most of the stories that I’ve published were written here, on the slanted stoops of buildings in the Art Museum area, or on the bus en route to West Philly, or in coffee shops downtown. Art in general is really alive in a special way in Philly. Community art is such an important part of the culture here, with the Mural Arts program, for example, which makes a walk through this city like a trip through Wonderland for anyone who loves art. And there are so many talented writers here—communities like Big Blue Marble, the Chapter and Verse series, the Light of Unity series, Moles not Molar, Running Wild Writers, and the Kelly Writers House all bring rich, interesting new fiction and poetry within close reach. Then, too, the legacy of writers like Sonia Sanchez, John Edgar Wideman, and W.E.B. Dubois is definitely an inspiration in itself.

5) What is the last book you have read that you enjoyed? Tell our Big Blue Marble community a little about it.

This is a tough one. I suppose that would be Jamaica Kincaid’s Mr. Potter. It’s a really stunning book about the life of a seemingly unremarkable Antiguan man, told from the point of view of his daughter. As in all of Kincaid’s work, the narrator taps into this unrelenting first-person voice that hooks you immediately, and makes you crave her when she’s gone. The book follows the narrator as she imagines and reconstruct her father’s life, thinking through how forces like colonialism, poverty, racism and classism, infidelity and love have shaped him, and, in turn, shape her. It’s one of Kincaid’s more recent novels, and I think it reflects everything that I admire about her work, and everything I try to do in my own. It makes you fall in love with the characters even through their missteps and cruelty, makes you root yourself in her fictional world, even with its real-world treacheries and flaws.

Mecca Jamilah Sullivan is from Harlem, New York. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming internationally in publications including Callaloo, American Fiction, Best New Writing, Crab Orchard Review, Bloom, Lumina, Amistad, The Minnesota Review, 2010 Robert Olen Butler Fiction Prize Stories, Baobab: South African Journal of New Writing, American Visions and GLQ. She is the winner of the Charles Johnson Fiction Award, the William Gunn Fiction Award, the James Baldwin Memorial Playwriting Award, as well as honors from Glimmer TrainGulf CoastAmerican Short FictionBest New Writing, Philadelphia Stories, the Boston Fiction Festival, Sol Books, Temple University, Del Sol Press, the NAACP, and others. She is the recipient of scholarships, fellowships, and residencies from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, The Yaddo Colony, the Hedgebrook Writers’ Retreat, the New York State Summer Writers’ Institute, the Center for Fiction, and Williams College. She holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Pennsylvania.  She recently completed her dissertation on voice and difference in contemporary women’s literature of the African Diaspora.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Quote: Mary Pipher

Insomnia sucks. I've had nights when I felt so awake that I couldn't remember what it felt like to be sleepy or to fall asleep. Nights when I've had to remind myself that with one deliberate exception as a kid and once or twice in college, I have in fact succeeded in falling asleep every night of my life.

A few years ago, I was late getting to bed, sitting (in fact, possibly standing) in the dining room leafing through a pile of Advance Reader Copies of soon-to-be-published books. I read a paragraph of one, a hundred pages of another...and then I opened Mary Pipher's upcoming memoir Seeking Peace to the following passage:

"Emotionally we were opposites as well. Jim was as steady and calm as I was easily rattled and changeable. For every decision, I was the gas; he was the brakes. I wanted ten children; he was quite happy with only Zeke. Many years after we married, we had this interaction: I had terrible insomnia, and after several hours, I woke Jim to ask him what he thought about in the two minutes it took him to fall asleep. He said, "Pie." He wasn't joking. Then he asked me what I was thinking about. I answered, "The Holocaust." That about sums us up."

- Mary Pipher, Seeking Peace: Chronicles of the Worst Buddhist in the World

What a revelation! I had certainly lain awake trying not to think of things like the Holocaust, but I hadn't thought of replacing it with something so simple and homey. The next night I told Nif this story and asked her to tell me her recipe for pumpkin pie. Sweet, soothing, and relaxing ... and it worked!

The following night I asked for biscuits.