Nursery Rhyme Comics

Last weekend I went to the Indianapolis Youth Literature Festival. I had a great time, even though I just went for the public book signing.

Nick Bruel was going to be signing, so I brought along Nursery Rhyme Comics.  When I got to the front of the line, he was surprised and delighted to see the collection (he had been signing lots of Bad Kitty books). I could tell he was proud to be able to sign it for me: he told me about the three contributions he had made to the book. 1. Illustrating Three Little Kittens; 2. Bringing his friend Jules Feiffer on to the project; and 3. Suggesting that "If anyone should do London Bridge is Falling Down, it's David Macaulay."

Let me tell you how I found this gem. I love it.

It was a Cybils nominee, and one of the other panelists got a hold of it and said it was excellent, but the rest of us couldn't seem to find it. I peeked at a link on the publishers website that showed a few pages -- it had potential. Then, in the eleventh hour, the day before we were going to make our final shortlist, review copies arrived for all the panelists in the mail. I was away on Christmas vacation, my copy in IL, my body in AZ.

Others on the panel read it quickly or glanced it over and the consensus was that it was a standout. I took the panel's word for it, and when I got home and got my package, it was my first priority. I had to know what I had put my stamp of approval on.

Nick Bruel signing books at the Indianapolis Youth Literature Festival 2012
Oh my goodness! It is fantastic!  We've been reading it non-stop since then. It's the perfect bedtime book because Benjamin (age 3) can beg for just one more rhyme, and they're all so varied and well done that I don't mind giving in.  The collection boasts "50 rhymes from 50 celebrated cartoonists." Nursery rhymes are short, and these illustrated ones range in length from one to three pages. Some of the rhymes are illustrated to keep the classic meaning, some have a new creative twist. My personal fave is One, Two, Buckle My Shoe by Dave Roman, but there are so many that I love. Benjamin always asks for Sara Varon's Mary Had a Little Lamb. Trust me, no matter your taste, you'll find a favorite in this book. The rhymes range from sweet to serious, the art from bold to intricate.

To avoid repetitive stress injuries while signing books,
Nick Bruel draws pictures in the books too. 

This book is perfect for teachers -- in fact while I was in line a third-grade boy told me excitedly that his teacher had read some of the rhymes to his class and he loved it.  Perhaps this will be my new go-to baby shower gift. Jim Jacobs taught my Children's Literature class and he told us all to find a good mother goose collection and buy loads of copies to give to new parents. I've looked before without success. In Nursery Rhyme Comics I've found one I love.

It's really the sort of thing that is fun for all ages. My one-year-old will sit still for a poem or two, my three-year-old wants more. Older kids love the humor in it, and I can vouch that you don't need to be a kid to enjoy it. It's really stellar.

Alysa with Author & Illustrator Nick Bruel
(Just in case you love it as much as me, here's my affiliate link for the book. Enjoy!)

Discuss: Creativity

In an interview on Gretchen Rubin's blog, Gabrielle Blair says:
The happiest, most content people I know in my own life are actively creative in some way, shape, or form. Creativity looks different on each of us, right? 
I completely agree. I've been having loads of fun creating reviews and posts here on Everead lately. :)

Incidentally, Gabrielle Blair (who I've read a lot about lately, first on the indescribable blog nat the fat rat, then in my alumni magazine) also mentions her favorite picture book of all time, Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall. She makes is sound so lovely that I've put it on hold at my library already.

But back to creativity:
What do you do to stay actively creative? I'd love to hear about it.
Have you got a blog? Leave a link in the comments.
Do you craft?
Do you clean? My sister-in-law says she's not creative, but she can create a clean space out of a dirty one in seconds. It's amazing.

Wives and Daughters

this is the cover my copy had
I just finished this book for our book club, and it was a a doozy! My copy was more than 600 pages. I don't have anything against long books in theory, but when it comes down to it I honestly do begrudge them their length. I used to pride myself on reading long books all the time (ahem, Wheel of Time series) but since then I've been shorter and shorter books (YA fiction, Juvenile Fiction, Graphic Novels). Now I respect a book that can tell a detailed story in few words. That's not this book -- but I liked it surprisingly well anyway.

I had been warned before I started Wives and Daughters that author Elizabeth Gaskell died before she finished it. It was published as a serial in a magazine, a few chapters at a time over the course of some years, and the last chapter was never written. So I was prepared to imagine my own ending, and really one knows where the story is going in large part. However it was still a bit of a blow to go from Mrs. Gaskell's detailed writing to my own weak imaginings. Yes, I had heard there was no ending (and to watch the movie version, which has one) but I still expected there to be more of an ending than there was.

Wives and Daughters is the story of Molly Gibson, daughter to the country doctor. Widowed Mr. Gibson remarries in Molly's teen years, mostly so that Molly will have a mother figure.  His new wife, a widow herself, has a daughter about Molly's age. The book is about all of their relationships.

Here's my breakdown of some of the main players:

  • Molly - our protagonist. Deadly serious and highly moral.
  • Mr. Gibson - Molly's father. Humorous and highly moral.
  • Mrs. Gibson - Molly's new stepmother. Silly and idiotic, occasionally harmful.
  • Cynthia - Molly's new stepsister. Beautiful and charismatic, beloved by everyone despite her flighty nature.
  • Roger - our love interest. Not handsome, but very pleasant and intelligent and moral.
  • Osborne - Roger's older brother. A poet with a weak constitution and penchant for keeping secrets.
  • Lady Harriet - Daughter of local nobility and my personal favorite. Humorous, silly even, but always charitable.
From the movie, which I will be seeking out.
Image from  Enchanted Serenity Period Films
Mrs. Gaskell lived and wrote contemporary with the Bronte sisters, and this book, like Jane Austen's books is set in post-Napoleonic England. It has less of the dark mystery feel than Jane Eyre does, and rather more of the exposition and daily detail than Pride and Prejudice.

Strange as it may be, despite the fact that this book was hugely long and has no ending and takes a bit of getting into at the beginning, I really do recommend it. If you're at all interested in it, I would say read it! It always has a certain charm, and employs an enjoyable wit as well. This is a line from Lady Harriet in one of my favorite scenes: 

My solitude requires a listener, to whom I may say, "How sweet is solitude."

Incidentally, the book is past copyright and available for free online. I hope you enjoy as much as our book club did!

What do you think? Will you be seeking out some more historical drama now that Downton Abbey is over for the season?
Previously from Elizabeth Gaskell: Ashley reviews North and South.

Princess Academy Winner

Congratulations to Laura Beth!
You've won a signed paperback of Princess Academy by Shannon Hale. I shall look for your acceptance speech in the comments, and send you a confirmation email once your prize has shipped.

For the rest of you, I'd like to know what book you're interested in winning from Everead's next contests. Leave a comment naming a genre you like, an author you prefer, or a title you'd love to get your hands on.

Cybils Winners Announced!

Oh, man. I'm sick today. Not so super sick, but just enough sick to be definitely sick. But I wanted to tell you that the Cybils winners have been announced!

Since I helped compile the shortlist with the Graphic Novels Round 1 panel those were the picks I was most excited to see.

For the younger set: Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

Nominated by Isaac Z, I see. Could that be our own Isaac Z of Bookie Woogie? Good call Isaac! I loved this one so much I made Jacob read and he loved it too.

For the older set: Anya's Ghost by Vera Brogsol

This is what I had to say about Anya's Ghost back in July:
Inruiging. I liked the style and coloring.  Anya has a bad attitude, a self-centered outlook, and a smoking habit -- she's easy to hate. When she falls down a hole and meets the ghost of the girl who fell down it before her, her life begins to change. I thought the plot and art both well executed. It was just creepy enough for me, and has a great ending. Recommended for fans of Neil Gaiman (his blurb on the front reads, "a masterpiece!"), ages 12+.
Other winners I've already read:

  • Winner of the Easy Reader category, I Broke My Trunk by Mo Willems - hilarious. Y'all know how much I love Elephant and Piggie. There's a reason they keep winning all the awards. 
  • Winner of the Fiction Picture Books award, Me . . . Jane by Patrick McDonnell - sweet. It's the story of Jane Goodall's early childhood. 

Again, the full list of winners is announced on the Cybils website, and really all the books on these shortlists are going to be stellar.

Sequels, sequels!

I've been excited about a number of sequels this past half a year, Midnight in Austenland included (which I'm currently halfway through and loving). The three I've just gotten my hands on recently (been kinda busy moving halfway across the country to good ol' CA this winter):
Crossed, by Ally Condie
The Secret Prince, by Violet Haberdasher
Liar's Moon, by Elizabeth C. Bunce

All three of these books had really, really promising first installments. None of them quite lived up to their predecessors. BUT, they were all still good, fun reads.

First, CrossedPicking up where Matched ended, Cassia chooses to search for Ky, beyond the city into the dangerous Outer Provinces where he's been sent to certain death. This one for me was a bit overly introspective, a little shy on more forward-moving plot elements, but still a lovely read. I'll be interested to see how she manages to wrap up all of the loose ends in book #3. I think too often I tend to love a second book based solely on the fact that I loved the first book and was therefore excited for and entirely convinced that I would love the second. So I've had mixed feelings about this one. Still, I enjoyed reading it. And that's important.

The Secret Prince:  The sequel to the promising, though admittedly very Harry Potter-like Knightley Academy, the title is a little less-than subtle on this one. Following his roommate's lead, Henry Grim begins to befriend the other boys at school, no longer the outcast he was convinced he would always be. Together, the boys form a secret club to train for battle, though such training is against the Brittonian laws. When they're discovered, Henry disguises himself as a servant on a train headed for the brink-of-war Nordlands, searching for evidence of their treachery to use as his own redemption back at Knightley Academy. The secrets that he finds there, however, will lead us nicely on to book #3 ... Highly recommended for middle grade readers, male and female alike, who adored Harry Potter.

Finally, Liar's Moon: Digger is back in the city, mostly trying to survive, half-heartedly searching for other wielders of magic like herself, not sure where she fits in with the brewing rebellion. When she learns that an old friend has been imprisoned for murdering his wife, she throws herself into the task of clearing his name. The secrets and plot twists she unearths along the way force her to question what she thinks she knows about her friends, herself, and even her evil brother---the man responsible for the imprisonment, torture, and deaths of so many born to magic ... just like herself. The first book in this series (Star Crossed) had me gasping for breath, again and again, literally biting my fingernails, wondering how on earth a plot so twisted, knotted, and switch-backed could ever manage to right itself in the end. This one was less gasp-worthy, but I'm still impressed by the gritty new talent that is Elizabeth C. Bunce.
affiliate links were added to this post on 10/7/2014. Happy Reading!

Some fun links

A few fun links for your Saturday:

Stephenie Meyer blogs about being on movie sets for Austenland, Breaking Dawn parts 1 & 2, and The Host.

Shannon Hale talks about the gothic romance.

I learned about Kid Book Ratings, a blog where books (mostly picture books) are given one of the following distinctions: Buy, Borrow, Donate or Destroy! So clever.

From the mental_floss blog, 12 Wonderfully Useless Flyers made me laugh quite hard.

Midnight in Austenland

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale

Charlotte Kinder sends herself on a Jane Austen vacation, since her two children will be spending the next few weeks with their dad and his new wife. She knew she'd have to wear a corset and learn quadrilles; she didn't count on a murder mystery.

One need not have read Austenland to enjoy Midnight in Austenland. That said, I can't help comparing the two. Only supporting characters return for this book, set in the same resort  three years later. Austenland is a chick flick in print. Pure fluff! Midnight in Austenland is much more complex. It is heavier (both literally and figuratively) than Austenland was.*  A little darker. Well, it is Midnight. I'm sure that was intentional.

How would I categorize this book? Midnight in Austenland flirts with being a murder mystery. The whodunnit is vital to the plot, but not the focus of the book. Romance? Anti-Romance is more prevalent: it is so excruciating to hear about Charlotte's divorce. Wholly committed to her marriage and family, she has been suffering something of an identity crisis since the dissolution. Hearing about her broken past made her a character I could relate to in her current situation. Bildungsroman? Perhaps! Except Charlotte is in her thirties, not teenage years. Still, this is something of a coming-of-age novel. Aren't we grown ups still growing up, all the time? I loved how Charlotte was able to both change for the better and stay true to her nature.  I adored her passion for motherhood.

I laughed (when Charlotte triumphs, and at Shannon's signature funny**), I teared up (I didn't actually cry okay!?), and I did swoon a little bit there (at the end).  The book ended up making me think about a Jane Austen quote I have heard before: "I wish as well as everybody else to be perfectly happy, but like everybody else, it must be in my own way."

Recommended to all the ladies (and any of the gentlemen out there who are interested).
*by no means a difficult achievement.
**which seems to have expanded to include physical funny, as there was much more of that.

ETA: There is a contest running until Friday the 10th on "I Loved This Book" where you could win a signed copy!

ETA2: Thoughts from the next day: I really enjoyed this book. I loved it! Did that come across, above? I also respected this book. Loved and respected it.

Book Stew review: Shakespeare's Secret

Back in the day, before I started Everead, I reviewed books on what is now my family blog. At the time, since I was posting so many book reviews, I called the blog Book Stew. This review was originally posted there.

The other day I recommended Shakespeare's Secret to my mom as a good read-aloud.  She has since read and enjoyed it, so I thought I'd repost my original review here on Everead:
Shakespeare's Secret
by Elise Broach, 272 pages.
Hero is the new girl in town, and, as usual, her Shakespearian name draws comments. There is something else that the town has been talking about though, and the missing Murphy diamond could be right under her nose.
As I was browsing the stacks at my local library, I stumbled upon this little volume. Its cover art and catchy title made me pick it up, and I'm glad I did. It was super fun. On the inside cover of this book which was published this year [2007], was a bookplate that suggested reading this book aloud with a child. I would highly recommend that. It has very short chapters, and thus provides many good stopping places for a voice. And, it's just awesome fun! Take a mystery, add a dollop of history, a dash of Shakespeare and you've got a really fun story. It is the sort of book that makes you want to study history and plant a garden and read Shakespeare. 
Go for it!!

Princess Academy Giveaway CLOSED

Shannon Hale has written a sequel to her Newbery Honor winning Princess Academy. Be still my heart! I just can't get enough of Shannon Hale!

Will the Princess Academy sequel have cover art by Alison Jay?
On Sunday last, the official title of Princess Academy 2 was announced on Shannon's website:


Ooh, I like it! Its so atmospheric! Linder stone is so important in Princess Academy, and Palace of Stone sounds ominous and mysterious at the same time that it suggests the palace in the lowlands being made from the mountains.

In honor of the title announcement, Everead is giving away a signed* paperback copy of Princess Academy! The contest closes on Feb 16, 2012. Palace of Stone is due out in Fall 2012, so we will all have plenty of time to read or re-read Princess Academy. To enter the contest, fill out the form linked below. *Hint: you might want to subscribe to the blog or to our new Everead newsletter. (Links in the sidebar!)

but you can see all our posts about Shannon Hale here!

What do you think of the title? On a scale of 1-10, how excited are you for this book? Having trouble with the entry form? This is my first time using one, so email me or leave a comment below with any comments.
The winner gets this book!
*ETA: I forgot! It's a signed copy!
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