Tag Archives: Children’s Books

Oh, This Book, This Book, This Book! Garden of Darkness by Gillian Murray Kendall

“Oh, this book. This book, this book, this book. Post-apocalyptic YA is usually just something I read for funsies, but I had to stay up last night until I’d finished this one. It wasn’t the story–kids survive in a world where disease has wiped out all of the adults–but the writing. Most YA uses fairly simple, straightforward prose in telling its story, with the occasional descriptive passage used to point to something that will be Very Important to the Plot. This book, however, seemed to relish language; to use it to full effect to build mood and character. Every character had a distinctive voice, a distinctive way of speaking, which made them clear on the page. Each change of circumstance was rendered clearly, with the panic of the early part of the book giving way to the fear and loneliness of the middle, then on to the companionship, love and hope of the latter part. I really wish I could explain this better or that I had been smart enough to copy down some of the phrases and sentences that particularly stood out for me, but, alas, no. I will say, though, if you haven’t read it yet, to give it a try when you have a chance. Like I said, there’s nothing earth-shatteringly original about the plot, but the writing itself elevates this book far above the rest of the heaping pile of post-apocalyptic YA.” Billie Bloebaum, Powell’s @ PDX

The Garden of Darkness explores the journey of four children who, after surviving a disease that seems to infect all but one adult, hope to find meaning by joining forces with this sole remaining grownup — who says he possesses a cure. These children discover, however, that the greatest meaning of all lies in the friendships they forge during the journey itself. This groundbreaking Young Adult novel—shaded with despair like that in The Road and hope and renewal like that found in The Hunger Games— shows the courage, tenacity and, finally, love necessary to create a new world from the ashes of the old.

Their families dead from the pandemic SitkaAZ13, known as “Pest,” 15-year-old cheerleader Clare and 13-year-old chess club member Jem, an unlikely pair, are thrown together and realize that, if either of them wishes to reach adulthood, they must find a cure. A shadowy adult broadcasting on the radio to all orphaned children promises just that—to cure children once they grow into Pest, then to feed them and to care for them.
Or does this adult have something else in mind?

Against a hostile landscape of rotting cities and of a countryside infected by corpses and roamed by voracious diseased survivors, Jem and Clare make their bid for life and, with their group of fellow child-travelers growing, embark on a journey to find the grownup they believe holds the cure. Their only weapon is Clare’s dog, Bear.
But Clare and Jem, as well as their followers, are hampered by the knowledge that everything in this new child-led world had become suspect—the love of diseased adults, alliances, trust, hope. As Clare and Jem learn to stitch wounds, skin deer and survive in the ashes of the old world perhaps it is no surprise that they begin to find that friendship is as redemptive as anything they seek—that friendship has its own kind of healing power. And, at the end of their journey, in the face of the ultimate betrayal, they discover that out of friendship can come love.


Charles Curtis Middle Grade Fantasy Scheduled for 2015

Tantrum Author Charles Curtis

Georgia McBride at Month9Books has acquired North American and audio rights to a middle-grade fantasy thriller called Strange Country Day, and an untitled sequel by debut author and New York City sportswriter Charles Curtis, in which a boy develops superhuman athletic skills while under the watchful eyes of some spooky adults. The book is scheduled for fall 2015 publication from the publisher’s new middle-grade line, Tantrum Books. Richard Curtis brokered the deal.

Charles Curtis is a writer and journalist based in New York City. He has reported and written for publications including NJ.com (where he is currently the site’s sports buzz reporter), The Daily, ESPN.com, ESPN the Magazine, Bleacher Report, TV Guide and Entertainment Weekly. Charles has covered the NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, golf, tennis and NASCAR. He has also written about television, film and pop culture.

In addition, Curtis has also written, produced and was featured in videos for ESPN.com and The Daily. He has made radio appearances on stations including 92.9 The Ticket in Bangor, Maine, WLIE 540 AM in Long Island and on morning shows across Canada via the CBC.

He can be reached on email at charlescurtis82 at yahoo.com or on Twitter: @charlescurtis82.


DJ MacHale’s “Sylo” Absolutely Un-Put-Down-Able”: Kirkus Starred Review

Kirkus has bestowed a starred review on “Sylo”, the thrilling first novel in a new series launched today by Penguin’s Razorbill YA imprint. MacHale is author of the mammoth bestselling “Pendragon” series and, more recently, the Morpheus trilogy,

Below in full is the review:

This riveting novel starts with a question: How safe is it to remain uninvolved?

At 14, Tucker Pierce is all about fitting in and going with the flow. While his friends talk about going out into the world and doing great things, he prefers to dream small. He likes life on tiny, fictional Pemberwick Island, Maine, and hopes to take over his father’s landscaping business eventually. For now, warming the bench at the weekly football games is just fine with him. But when the island is quarantined by the U.S. Navy, things start to fall apart, and Tucker can’t stand aside for long. People start dying. The girl he wants to get to know a whole lot better, Tori, is captured along with Tucker and imprisoned behind barbed wire. The country-club golf course has been converted into a military camp run by a division of the military they’ve never heard of: SYLO. There’s no communication from the mainland to the island and no way to get word of what’s happening out to the world. Tucker and Tori need to get to the mainland to tell their story. Can they get past the naval blockade? Can they survive the sky-borne attack on the blockade? Whom can they trust? Who-or what-is SYLO? And who is fighting whom? MacHale knows boy readers and delivers, giving them an action-packed plot with a likable, Everykid protagonist and doling out answers with just the right amount of parsimony to keep the pages turning.

This first installment in a proposed trilogy is A, more exciting than an X-Box and roller coaster combined. (Adventure. 10-16)


Kaleb Nation’s “The Farfield Curse”

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Kaleb Nation’s “The Farfield Curse”


What Do Children’s Brain Cells Do? Not Much Anymore

Long ago humans possessed a tail, but today it is vestigial.  Will the same be said one day about human imagination?

Reading Lawrence Downes’ thoughtful speculations in the New York Times about the impact of interactive books on children, we have to wonder if our descendants will be devoid of one of the key characteristics that separate us from all other species. His concerns are intensified by a study that “found children swimming in a media ocean.” “What,” he wonders, “does interactivity do for the imagination, as reading a book gets closer and closer to watching television?”

Downes’ dark ruminations were inspired by a visit to Apple’s virtual bookstore, “a wonderland of unbound creativity and astonishment. The text is just the beginning, an anchor for pictures that glow and unfold, characters who talk and tumble, words that pronounce themselves and music that enlivens everything…. But does digital interactivity engender mental passivity? As fingers flick and flit, making pixels work harder, what do brain cells do?”

What indeed?  If they don’t do anything, they will atrophy and fade into oblivion, making us little better than cabbages gazing at screens.

Richard Curtis

Every Blogger owes a debt of gratitude to newspapers and magazines. This posting relies on original research and reporting performed by The New York Times.


Paradox: Children’s Book Sales Down But Publishers Not Worried. Why?

The Association of American Publishers issued a report on book sales for the January just past. It comes as no surprise that adult hardcover sales were down over those of the prior January. But what stopped us in our tracks were the stats for children’s books. They fell off a cliff: children’s and young adult hardcover sales plunged 41.6%, and paperbacks in the same sector dropped 18.1%.

Given the fact that children’s books have been one of the few high-flying categories in our struggling industry, you’d imagine publishers would be rending their garments and editors packing the contents of their desks. Yet, except from a couple of publishers there has scarcely been a groan or whimper or even a pout.

Why not? We asked some knowledgeable children’s book editors and I think we know the answer  Here’s a hint: SM.  And no, that doesn’t stand for Sadomasochism.

It stands for Stephenie Meyer. The simple fact is that there there were no books by Meyer driving children’s books sales in January.  Lagardere, parent company of Little Brown, Meyer’s publisher, reported a fabulously profitable 2009 with a profits of 58 million Euros, about $78 million. Much of that was generated by Meyer’s Twilight saga: 33.6 million copies in the US, 12.8 million in the UK and Australia-New Zealand, and 3.6 million in France.

But in 2010?  No more Twilights. Clearly, Stephenie Meyer’s numbers have completely skewed the charts downward.  Same for Harry Potter.  Scholastic’s third quarter sales dipped from $423.6 million to $398.8 million. Potter‘s UK publisher Bloomsbury had a similar drop, clearly triggered by the diminishing presence of J. K. Rowling’s blockbuster series.

Though the children’s book industry appears to have plunged into an abyss, when you factor Twilight and Harry Potter out of the equation, kids’ books are fine thank you and continue to support an otherwise flat book business.

Richard Curtis


Authors – Cut Velvet!

If you ever worked in the garment business you’ll remember the joke about the dress manufacturer who hears that taffeta is going to be big next season and buys a huge amount of it,  only to learn that everyone will be wearing velvet instead. Ruined, he jumps out the window. As he plummets to the sidewalk he notices in a window that his friend Murray is manufacturing a taffeta skirt. “Murray!” he shouts. “Cut velvet!”

I was reminded of this story when I read a Publishers Weekly report by Diane Roback on the Bologna Book Fair, a major worldwide convocation of children’s book publishers. Roback’s title was YA Hot, Digital Not at Upbeat Bologna, and she quoted a number of editors and agents who proclaimed that the superheated trend in young adult fiction, propelled by such engines as Harry Potter and Twilight, continues unabated. For instance, a Disney subsidiary rights official reported that “People are saying ‘we want to see YA fiction.’ And they’re asking specifically for YA, not just middle-grade and not just series.”

However, before you rush to develop another young adult series – remember that for every bubble there is a pin. Can’t happen? Party’s going to last forever? One agent at the fair told Roback that a number of publishers told him their lists are YA-saturated and “what we really want is good middle-grade.” And Random House’s Beverly Horowitz, one of the children’s book industry’s doyennes, thinks the trend may move to younger readers, boasting that she has an “otherworldly” middle-grade project in the works. Agent Simon Lipskar of Writers House elicited a preemptive offer from Random House for a middle-grade trilogy.

For the moment the only certain trend is that children’s books remain one of the few sectors of the publishing ecology that are making money, and the field is equally divided between books for big kids and for little kids. Indeed, YA books may have the edge because their readership often crosses over into the adult world.

But how many YA’s are so fabulously successful that they will be snapped up by grownups? Do you want to be the first author to arrive after the gates shut, leaving you and your agent standing with a perfectly wonderful and utterly unsalable YA project? It might behoove you to hit the bookstores, pick up and study some middle grade novels, and try your hand at one. That way you won’t be left with a warehouse full of taffeta.

Richard Curtis