And by “soon,” I mean April 7, 2015.
Okay, it’s not exactly soon.
But it’s coming eventually. And hopefully, it’ll be worth the wait.
And by “soon,” I mean April 7, 2015.
Okay, it’s not exactly soon.
But it’s coming eventually. And hopefully, it’ll be worth the wait.
So, Blue Sea Burning is finally in stores (if you haven’t gotten your copy, you can rectify that now via Amazon, B&N, or your favorite indie bookseller)…and in honor of the occasion, I have a guest post up today at John Scalzi’s Whatever blog describing how the Chronicles of Egg series came about.
If you’re a fan of the Egg books, or just Egg-curious, it’s worth a look — and if you’re unfamiliar with John Scalzi’s books, you should DEFINITELY check them out. I don’t read much sci-fi, and neither does my 13-year-old — but both of us love Scalzi’s books, which have a fantastic sense of humor that’s missing from a lot of sci-fi. My favorite is Redshirts; I really dug Fuzzy Nation, too; and if you’re into more traditional sci-fi, Old Man’s War and its sequels are also great.
But you should finish the Chronicles of Egg first. Or, if you’re just clicking over here from Scalzi’s blog, you might want to START the Chronicles of Egg, which begins with Deadweather and Sunrise (newly available in this redesigned and very spiffy cover):
Actually, wait…on second thought, if you’re just clicking over here from Scalzi’s blog, start with The Slightly Strange Saga of My Son’s Soccer Ball, because it is short and fun and free.
If you like that, try Letters To My Kid At Summer Camp and its sequels.
And if you like those, THEN you might want to take a flyer on the Egg books.
Considering a copy of Deadweather and Sunrise or New Lands as a holiday gift?
You should! Seriously. These books are AMAZING, and I’m not just saying that because I get royalties.
And if you are…why not make that gift EXTRA-SUPER-SPECIAL by having it signed and personalized to your friend/loved one/person-you-got-stuck-with-in-the-Secret-Santa-drawing?
Because for a limited time only, I will autograph and personalize as many books as you want FOR FREE!
Well, not exactly. That would be kind of a hassle (although if you’re dead set on it, and/or live within a five-block radius of my apartment, email me and maybe we can work something out).
But what I WILL do for free is send you a personalized, autographed Chronicles of Egg book plate that you can affix to the inside of your copy!
It’ll be almost exactly like my having signed the book itself, and it’ll look something like this:
Also, for those of you unclear on the concept of “book plate,” it’s basically a fancy sticker. You can peel off the back and stick it pretty much anywhere you want. Most people choose the interior title page, but it’ll stick to anything, so if you’d rather put it on a notebook, refrigerator, the back of an unsuspecting victim, etc…have at it. I’m not going to judge you.
And again: THIS IS FREE, and I’ll send as many book plates as you have books to stick them in. Just send a mailing address and the first name of the recipient to email@example.com and I’ll hook you up.
Do it by 4pm on December 18th, and I guarantee delivery in time for Christmas!
Any later than that, and I will guarantee delivery by Martin Luther King Day. (For which the Chronicles of Egg books would also make a fine, if somewhat inexplicable, gift.)
In the short history of this site, I’ve gotten 176 reader comments. But I’d never read one that made me laugh out loud until the following appeared, at the bottom of the “Absolutely Best Ride At Universal Studios Orlando” post.
Thank you for wasting my time. I read all of this and went to the end just to get angry at you. Please stop writing these if you are just going to waste time.
Mark, if you’re reading this, all I can say is I’m sorry.
And if you think I’ve wasted YOUR time, imagine how much of my own time I’ve wasted writing all these posts!
I should probably get a day job or something.
The Chronicles of Egg books are about to get a whole lot more awesome:
And I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover.
But still. These are pretty great. Especially the new Deadweather cover.
Incidentally, if you don’t already own Deadweather and Sunrise and New Lands, YOU NEED TO BUY THEM RIGHT NOW (preferably by clicking one of the “Get the Books!” links on the right side of the page).
Because pretty soon, the first edition covers will be gone for good.
Which means they are going to be ENORMOUSLY VALUABLE COLLECTOR’S ITEMS.
I’ve been visiting a lot of elementary and middle schools lately to talk about writing, which turns out to be the secret, practically-full-time job of most middle grade writers.
I say “secret,” because when I first got Deadweather and Sunrise published, nobody told me that the only way kids will realize your book even exists is if you show up at their school with a PowerPoint presentation.
But it is, and so I do.
One of things I talk about is how I got my start: by writing humor pieces for my high school newspaper, starting with an article I wrote as a sophomore about how I couldn’t understand why, just once, Wile E. Coyote couldn’t catch, kill, and eat the Roadrunner.
A bunch of kids have asked if they can read the article, so here it is. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it good…but to be fair, it WAS written by a 15-year-old:
Incidentally, the front page of that same issue is below, and it’s worth a look for a couple of reasons:
First, do you see the pretzel in the upper left corner?
That was our mascot.
Our mascot was a pretzel.
We were The Pretzels.
We had “Pretzel Pride.”
The weirdest thing about it? Nobody in my high school thought it was weird.
Second…take a look at that headline over the lead article. See anything amiss?
Apparently, we were a little short in the “Pretzel Proofreading” department.
This is just crazy great: a trailer for Deadweather and Sunrise, made in stop motion…using Legos…in a 13-year-old’s basement.
Many, many thanks to the awesome Natalia Zeller MacLean for making this.
If your browser chokes on the plugin, try clicking here:
And if that doesn’t work, feel free to leave a little sad-face emoticon in the comments section. :(
Two words: PROMOTIONAL SKULLS.
I think my 13-year-old put it best:
“This book is going to do really well in Germany.”
Which, incidentally, might just be the world’s cutest bookstore.
Just look at it!
It’s like a gingerbread house!
Full of skulls.
Thanks also to my German publisher, Carlsen, for sending out all the skulls.
Like most writers facing deadlines, I spent yesterday not writing. This was probably stupid of me, but it sure was fun–especially because I got to spend the time sitting in on a presentation Adam Gidwitz gave to my kid’s sixth grade class.
Adam’s the bestselling author of A Tale Dark and Grimm and its sequels, In a Glass Grimly and The Grimm Conclusion, the last of which comes out next week. They’re retellings of classic Grimm’s fairy tales that–unlike the familiar, watered-down versions–are scary, bloody, gruesome…and therefore MUCH more appealing to kids like mine.
The books are also hilarious, engaging, and just all-around fun–which is equally true of Adam’s public appearances. I have, in all sincerity, never seen a more captivated audience of kids than the one that laughed, screamed, and applauded through Adam’s retelling of the original version of Cinderella — in which there are chamber pots, knives, pecked-out eyes, and many, many more scary/funny/cool parts than I ever knew existed in that story.
AND HERE’S THE GOOD NEWS — Adam’s heading out on a book tour, and if you live in New York City, San Francisco, Oregon, Mississippi, North Carolina, Virginia, or Rhode Island, YOU CAN SEE HIM, TOO! Click here for dates and details.
And if you’re in NYC this Friday night, October 4th, definitely come by BookCourt in Brooklyn at 7pm to hear Adam retell more gruesome fairy tales.
My kids are very excited about it–which, if you know my kids, is a real accomplishment.
Someone just sent me a photo of the awesomest panel discussion I’ve ever had the honor of participating in, along with Sonia Manzano (aka Maria from Sesame Street), Newbery Award winner (for The One and Only Ivan) Katherine Applegate, and fantastic moderator/MG author Nan Marino (Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace).
You’re going to have to take my word for it that it was awesome, because the photo makes it look like Sonia’s angry, Katherine’s nodding off, and I’m staring down a heckler just offstage:
I’m not exactly sure what made this particular panel (at last week’s Brooklyn Book Festival) so much awesomer than the usual.
It may have been the inspirational quality of Sonia’s story–both how she got her start as a writer on Sesame Street and what led her to create the fascinating and moving The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano, set in Spanish Harlem in 1969.
It might also have been Nan’s uncanny ability to pose questions that alternately evoked thoughtful answers and provided the perfect setup to punch lines.
Or it could have been Katherine’s willingness, within five minutes of meeting me, to make fun of my bad parenting skills in front of a large group of strangers.
In any case, it was fantastic. If you were there, thanks for coming! If you missed it, please contact your local book festival and demand that they book the four of us. Katherine’s up for it, too:
— Katherine Applegate (@kaaauthor) September 24, 2013
And a special thanks to outstanding Penguin publicist Marisa Russell, who not only managed to convince the Brooklyn Book Festival people that I belonged in such esteemed company, but also took the following (and much less angry/sleepy/heckled-looking) shot of the four of us post-panel:
ETA: Click here for Nan’s take on the event, which is full of both A) applied math and B) surprises. (Nan: you were a pro! I never once got the sense that you were thinking about making a run for it. Although, now that I think of it, that would have made the whole thing EVEN MORE memorable.)
This Thursday, September 19th, is International Talk Like A Pirate Day — a fake but increasingly popular holiday of which I’ve been vaguely aware for a number of years, and which I used to think was totally ridiculous.
Then I wrote The Chronicles of Egg, and I suddenly realized International Talk Like A Pirate Day was absolutely brilliant!
Except for Mung, who lost part of his skull to a cannonball and can only gurgle incoherently. Which is admittedly kind of disturbing, although if you’ve read Deadweather and Sunrise, I think you’ll agree Mung’s shown great fortitude in living with his disability, and on the whole maintains a very positive, even charming, demeanor.
But I digress.
The thing is, marketing middle grade kids’ books–even critically acclaimed ones that adults love as much as kids–is HARD. Even when you’re blessed with incredibly fortunate alphabetization (“Rodkey” just happens to be conveniently wedged between “Riordan” and “Rowling” on the shelves), it’s tough to get the attention of potential readers.
So when an obvious hook (there’s a pun to be had here, but I’m too lazy to develop it) like International Talk Like A Pirate Day presents itself, only a fool would overlook it.
Hence this post, which began with a flurry of research. Talk Like a Pirate Day (or TLAPD, as its founders call it) has quite an interesting history, which you can read about here, and which involves a racquetball court, somebody’s ex-wife, and humorist Dave Barry.
It turns out Dave Barry was the key to the whole thing. TLAPD started as a private joke between a couple of guys in Oregon, and it probably would’ve stayed that way forever if Dave hadn’t publicized it in his syndicated column back in 2002, at which point TLAPD’s popularity exploded.
(Actually, now I’m thinking that if I can just get Dave Barry to plug The Chronicles of Egg in his column, all my marketing problems will be solved. If you know how I can get in touch with Dave Barry, PLEASE EMAIL ME.)
Some further digging into the TLAPD site revealed a glossary of the appropriate jargon to use when Talking Like A Pirate. And this is where the trouble started.
Because none of the pirates in The Chronicles of Egg talk like pirates are supposed to.
In the course of three books (Blue Sea Burning comes out April 3rd), NOBODY SAYS “ARRRR!” Not even once.
No one ever gets called “matey,” or “lubber,” or “me hearty.”
There is not a single exclamation of “Avast!” or “Shiver me timbers!”
Worst of all, when the verb “to be” is deployed, it tends to be in grammatically correct situations–as opposed to, say, “I be thirsty fer grog!”
(There’s also no grog. But that’s a whole other story.)
So how DO the pirates in The Chronicles of Egg talk? Here’s a short excerpt from Deadweather and Sunrise, in which our 13-year-old hero, the unfortunately named Egg Masterson, first encounters the infamous pirate Burn Healy:
“By strange coincidence,” said Healy, “I’ve just come from a meeting with a very powerful man. And your name came up.”
As my chest started to thump with fear, he reached back and plucked a piece of stiff paper from his desk. He studied it with a frown.
“Do you know what this man asked me to do if I saw you?”
He slid the paper across the table to me. I didn’t have to look at it to know what it was.
I didn’t know where to put my eyes — on the wanted poster with my face staring up at me, or on the pirate captain staring at me from the other side of the table.
I settled for staring at my hands. I wondered if I could ask him to shoot me instead of throwing me overboard. It’d be over faster that way.
“Don’t worry — I’m not going to.”
I looked up. There was a hint of a smile at the corners of his mouth.
“I do a volume business. Five thousand silver’s not enough to get me out of bed. Can’t say the same for most men, though. And hats off to you.” He tapped the wanted poster with his finger. “Murderer or not, that’s quite a price for a fruit picker’s boy. Why is that? Is it the company you keep? Or is it something else?”
See what I mean? Not a lot to work with there, arrr-and-matey-wise.
So I guess there’s no angle in this for me. Even so, take the time this Thursday to talk like a pirate. It’s completely ridiculous, but it’s fun.
And if it’s not too much trouble, please tell everybody you know to pick up a copy of Deadweather and Sunrise. You’ll find it in the kids’ section, right between the Riordans and the Rowlings:
(Too much? I know. Sorry! Couldn’t resist.)
For those of you who enjoyed my post a while back about the various foreign covers of Deadweather and Sunrise, a couple of things worth mentioning:
First of all, Mrs. Hembree over at Bulldog Readers is running a poll asking readers which of the foreign covers they like best. Head over and vote!
Especially if you want to see the “this-could-just-as-easily-be-the-cover-of-a-Nordic-death-metal-album” German cover dominate the puffy-shirted, “we-wandered-out-of-a-Matisse-painting-and-seem-none-too-happy-about-it” kids on the French cover.
Or the “I’m-sorry-I-was-under-the-impression-this-was-a-Disney-cartoon-from-the-’90s” Spanish cover. Or even the “where-did-this-Goth-vampire-come-from?” British cover.
Second, the Bulldog poll unfortunately went up 24 hours too early to include the new Israeli cover, which just arrived in my inbox yesterday. Check it out:
I like this one a lot, partly because it manages to convey a sense of humor along with adventure.
And partly because Millicent’s holding a gun, which we could NEVER get away with on a U.S. cover.
Like I said, the Israeli cover showed up too late to be included in the Bulldog poll, but you can always cast a write-in vote in the Bulldog comments section.
I’d do it, but I already voted. (Guess which cover I voted for?)
Hello! I notice that in your latest blog post (http://indietutes.blogspot.com/2013/07/books-of-june.html), the list of recent books you’ve read includes The Chronicles of Egg: Deadweather and Sunrise, by Geraldine McCaughrean.
Are you quite certain Geraldine wrote that book? Because I believe I did.
Unless Geraldine ALSO wrote a book called The Chronicles of Egg: Deadweather and Sunrise. Which would be a rather extraordinary coincidence — and in which case, could you please let me know how I could get a copy? I would be fascinated to read it, and a perfunctory Google search only yields editions of Deadweather which were written by me.
In the event that this was a mistake of attribution, and you did in fact read the Deadweather and Sunrise that I wrote, I’d suggest (per your stated request for good book recommendations) checking out its sequel, New Lands. It is quite a good book!
Although to be honest, I’m not only biased on the subject, but I have a financial interest in making such a recommendation. So take it with a grain of salt.
If, again, this was not a mistake of attribution, please let me know if Geraldine is planning any sequels, and whether any of them are also called New Lands.
Have a great day!
[ETA: Upon receipt of this email, the blog's author corrected her original post. Which, while very gracious, was actually kind of a shame, because it renders this whole post totally pointless. Not that it wasn't already.]
[ETA 2: The blog’s author, Charity Beasley – which I half-suspect is a pseudonym borrowed from a P.G. Wodehouse novel – just published our full correspondence here: http://indietutes.blogspot.com/2013/07/letters-from-mr-rodkey.html. Worth a look, if only to get Charity’s perspective on the matter.]
Today’s letter is the first one I ever sent to my kid at summer camp.
Although technically, it wasn’t camp. But it was pretty much the same thing: the first time he ever went a way for an extended trip, when he spent two weeks at his grandmother’s apartment in Paris.
(I know! Nice, right? Too bad it’s only a 300-square foot studio, and she’s not willing to put up anyone bigger than a 10-year-old…which was my kid’s age when I sent this to him.)
Subject: Re: Paris
Date: July 1, 2010 6:59:13 AM EDT
Xxxx [again, not his real name]:
Thank you so much for the update! It is very good to get emails from you. I was also relieved to hear that you fixed the problem with the flip video.
Now I have a problem that I am hoping you can help me with. Since you’ve been gone, no one has left their underwear on the bathroom floor. You might not think this seems like much of a problem, and when you left for Paris, neither did I.
But to my surprise, I have discovered that if I don’t have to remove dirty underwear from the bathroom floor every evening, my life feels strangely empty and lacking in purpose. I have tried to leave my own underwear on the bathroom floor and then remove it later, but it’s just not the same.
I spent most of last night lying awake in bed trying solve this problem, and I have come up with two potential solutions.
First, would it be all right with you if I took some underwear from your bedroom and left it on the bathroom floor for a while before picking it up and taking it to the laundry room? Before you answer, consider the fact that — and I am not certain of this, but I strongly suspect it — for my life to feel truly purpose-driven, the underwear must be dirty. Which means I will have to make one of your brothers wear it around for a while beforehand (I would wear it, but I am too big; and I would ask your mother, but she is too picky about her underthings). I assume you would prefer that Zzzz wears the underwear and not Yyyy.
If you do not approve of this, there is a second option. I believe that if I take the phone into the bathroom at the usual hour of 8pm, call you, and yell at you to come pick up your underwear, my life might feel just as meaningful as if you and your dirty underwear were actually present. Given the time difference, I’d be calling at 2am Paris time. Would this be all right?
I realize it is something of an imposition to call you in the middle of the night, but to make it worth your time, while we’re on the phone I could also yell other things — not just the obvious “Xxxx, will you PLEASE hang up your towel?” but also things like “Get your shoes on!”, “Seriously, you HAVE to get off the computer now!”, “Stop touching Zzzz!”, and “Are you listening to me?! What did I just say?”
Thanks in advance for helping me with this. You are a good son.
I hope you’re having a great time! Has Grandma taken you to see the view of Paris from the steps of the Sacre-Coeur yet? I know I can’t pronounce that name, but I believe I spelled it correctly.
Tragically, this may be the end of the series — at least until my kid gets to camp next week and I start sending him letters again — because while I have more of them, the quality tails off pretty dramatically after this.
But you can always re-read the first two! They’re here:
And if you’re hungry for quality reading material, there’s always The Chronicles of Egg series! Which you can purchase by clicking one of the links under “Get the Books!” on the right-hand menu. Or, for more information, click on the “About The Chronicles of Egg” link on the top menu.
Or just email me and ask for a free copy. I probably won’t send you one, but you never know.
The first Letters To My Kid At Summer Camp went over well enough that I’m raiding my archives (and exploiting my kid) for another one.
This is from two years ago, and it contains what I like to think is some very valuable career advice.
July 25, 2011
Dear Xxxx [still not his real name],
[Mostly dull opening paragraphs redacted; they included a discussion of the camp's policy of forcing newly arrived campers to write a two-sentence-minimum note to their parents, which was then scanned into a computer and emailed to us as proof that they were still alive.]
Candles. I understand, unless I misread your handwriting once it was scanned into the computer, that among your activities is “candles.” I assume this refers to the making of candles and not, say, the lighting of them, which seems like it would get old in a hurry.
Now, look here: this is fine so far as it goes – you want to make some candles at summer camp, I won’t stand in your way – but I have to strongly caution you against falling too deeply in love with the candle lifestyle. Candles as a means of illumination – and, by extension, a marketable consumer product – have been obsolete for well over a century. Personally, outside of Hanukkah and birthdays, I have not used a candle since the mid-1990’s, and offhand I struggle to think of a single personal acquaintance who has not similarly switched over to electric light, usually exclusively.
What am I trying to say here? Only this, and please forgive me for being blunt: there is no future in candles, son. If you don’t believe me, do a Google search on “Top Careers in 2020,” which is approximately when you will be entering the work force. You will find “Candle Manufacturing/Sales” near the rock-bottom of the list, sharing space with such dead-end, dustbin-of-history occupations as “Blacksmithing” and “Screenwriting.”
I want you to have fun this summer. I do. And if candle-making floats your boat, have at it! Go nuts! Just don’t get too attached. Because in the long run, candles will only break your heart.
Also, I understand you can change your electives at the midway point. Do they offer accounting in the second half? Think about it. I’m just saying.
Anyway… I love you and miss you. I am also jealous of you. Not so much for the candles, but the kayaking and the sailing. And also the part where you write “the sleep situation is fine.” I wish I could say the same. Your mother can be a very trying bunkmate. And your brothers…eeesh. Don’t get me started.
It’s been a while since I posted. Partly, this is because writing books, while a fine way to make a living, has the unfortunate side effect of decreasing the amount of time I can spend writing blog posts that have absolutely no financial value whatsoever.
Mostly, though, it’s because I haven’t had any good ideas for blog posts.
Sadly, that’s still the case. But in honor of my oldest son’s imminent departure for summer camp, I thought I’d dig into my archives and post the following letter, which I sent to him while he was at camp last summer.
If you enjoy reading this kind of thing, please post a comment to that effect — if there’s sufficient interest in my continuing to exploit my family for material, I’ll post others.
August 3, 2012
Dear Xxxx [not his real name],
By the time you get this letter, over a month will have passed since I dropped you off (nauseous and underfed, but really, whose fault was that?) at the airport departure gate.
Which means I have gone an entire month without writing you a single letter.
I apologize for that. But it has been quite a busy month. As you may know, the Olympics are currently underway in London, and when I was driving back from dropping you off at the airport, it occurred to me that at 41 years old, I am not getting any younger, and this may be my last chance to represent my country in an Olympic event.
So I spent the next three weeks in intensive training at the U.S. Olympic Center in Colorado Springs, hoping to secure a spot on the national judo team.
I was unsuccessful.
And I can tell you this: it stung. Words cannot express the pain of seeing your dreams collapse into dust, even if they are dreams you only had for a couple of weeks.
Also, judo itself is painful. Some of the other fighters are pretty merciless, even in practice, and the fact that I was not an “official” member of the squad—and so was facing them not in the practice ring, but in the parking lot as they walked to their cars at the end of the day—meant that our bouts usually ended in a few seconds, with a submission hold resulting in loss of consciousness.
At least, I think that’s how it went down. I kept waking up in the parking lot, to the sound of cars pulling away, and with no short-term memory of the previous several minutes. (Here’s a fact, by the way, that might surprise you—in my experience, the women’s judo team is much more ruthless in combat than the men’s team, especially if you startle them while they are holding a set of car keys).
So that was a tough three weeks. After it was over, I went through a period of soul-searching. Judo had been my whole life, at least for the better part of July, and once it was gone, I felt a yawning emptiness that I didn’t know how to fill.
For some reason, it didn’t occur to me to fill it with letter writing. Sorry about that.
Anyway, I’m in a much better place now. And I’ve learned a lot, too—about the value of hard work, the wisdom of letting go, and why you should never challenge a martial arts expert to a fight in a parking lot.
What else can I tell you? It turns out it was a mistake to rent your room out to the elderly Uzbek man who smelled like rotten cheese. His check bounced, and when we confronted him about it, he skipped out on us. So, lesson learned. But we can’t get rid of the rotten cheese smell in your room, so I guess in a manner of speaking, he’s still with us.
Zzzz [my youngest son; also not his real name] has been difficult lately. I now think that among our family members, he is more likely than Yyyy [my middle son; ditto] to end up in jail. His soccer camp counselors think so, too.
Your mother—as she may have already told you—will not be contacting [Xxxx's friend]’s mom about the summer reading list, or mailing you the appropriate books, because this is the kind of thing that you are old enough to be responsible for yourself. There will be plenty of time to read the books when you get home, unless you blow it all playing Ipad Monopoly or watching Storage Wars.
I hope you are having a great time! We miss you.
(Click here for Part Two of Letters to My Kid At Summer Camp.)
I’d been wondering what the deal was with the German edition of Deadweather and Sunrise, because I hadn’t heard anything about it in the more than two years since the rights sold to the lovely people at Carlsen.
Which is a pretty long time–I mean, the French rights didn’t sell until almost a year after that, and Le Trésor des Okalus has been available in fine French bookstores (and hopefully the less fine ones, too) for a couple of months now.
The lack of news from Germany was actually starting to worry me. Not to engage in cultural stereotyping, but you wouldn’t ordinarily think the Germans would take second place to the French in the speed-and-efficiency department.
Seriously! Right? I mean, if covers could talk…
Hey, let’s imagine they can. Here’s what I’m figuring is on their minds:
Spanish cover: Wheeee! What an adventure!
French cover: Ah, bonjour! Let us bake a cake!
German cover: YOU ARE GOING TO DIE.
Dreckswetter und Morgenröte won’t be out until October 2nd — which is probably a good thing, because it’s going to take a while for the schoolchildren of Germany to prepare themselves for the onslaught.
What’s that you say? Can’t get enough of The Chronicles of Egg? Tired of re-reading the first two books while pining for the release of Blue Sea Burning next April?
Why not try reading it in Turkish? Or Italian! Or French! Or Spanish!
Not that you would. But you could! Just look at these:
You could even read it in British English, which is a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE!
Okay, that’s not actually true. The text of the U.K. editions is basically the same, except for a couple of innocent-seeming American words that turn out to be totally filthy in England… But the covers make them look like a whoooole different series:
Crazy, right? I mean, are these really the same books as these?
But, yeah. They are. Covers are funny things.
Speaking of funny things, if you haven’t seen the Turkish TV ad for Deadweather and Sunrise, it’s worth checking out.
(Reposted with thanks to the wonderful people at the The Nerdy Book Club, where I originally guest-posted this.)
Hello, Nerds! I’m Geoff Rodkey, author of the comedy-adventure-coming-of-age series The Chronicles of Egg and a big fan of the Book Club. When I got the chance to contribute a post, I was thrilled–and immediately spent the next several days meticulously crafting a 2,000-word essay about how Bridge to Terabithia scarred me for life.
I was convinced I’d written something truly special–poignant, heartfelt, existentially profound–until I showed it to my wife, who helpfully pointed out that it was actually turgid, boring, and painfully self-indulgent.
So I added my 2,000-word Bridge to Terabithia reminiscence to the unfortunately long list of Things That Seemed Like A Good Idea Until I Ran Them By My Wife and decided to take a different tack.
This is still a reminiscence, it’s still about books that meant a lot to me as a kid, and even though nobody dies in an emotionally devastating fashion in any of them, it’s still a little poignant–because in a sense, these books are dead themselves.
In other words, they’re out of print. They survive in libraries (I hope), and you can still fish them out of the Internet’s vast ocean of used book stores, but other than that, they’ve passed on. If you can track them down, though, I’d strongly recommend checking them out. They’re worth the effort.
Well, some of them are. Read on and you’ll see what I mean:
THE PUSHCART WAR, by Jean Merrill
I still can’t believe this is out of print. It’s a made-up history of a war on the streets of New York City between a triumvirate of more-or-less-evil trucking companies and an eccentric band of pushcart peddlers who organize themselves to fight back (with pea shooters) when the truckers start trying to run them out of business. It’s got an offbeat, singular, very funny tone, and the plot works on multiple levels–as a comedy, an underdog story, an object lesson in standing up to bullies, and a parable about the vulnerability of conventional military forces to guerrilla tactics.
That last one might be a stretch. But not by much. And The Pushcart War holds up incredibly well, for readers of any age–I sat down with a copy a while back and had as much fun with it as I did when I was ten.
THE MOUSE THAT ROARED, by Leonard Wibberly
This isn’t technically a kid’s book, but I read it when I was a kid, and my twelve-year-old loved it, so I’m counting it. It’s the story of a tiny, Andorra-like European country that decides, for reasons too complicated to get into, to invade the United States…using a small platoon of longbowmen, even though it’s the Atomic Age. And, for reasons that are also too complicated to get into, they win.
If this sounds even vaguely intriguing, hunt this book down. It’s a gem. The Mouse That Roared was also the basis for a Peter Sellers movie that I’ve never seen, because honestly, I don’t know how it could top the book.
One of several sequels to The Cricket in Times Square, this is the story of how Harry Cat and Tucker Mouse adopt a stray puppy, then have to find a home for it when the puppy grows into a sheepdog and no longer fits in the drainpipe where they live. I read it to my 7-year-old last year, and we both had a fine time with it. I’m not sure why it’s out of print when, say, Tucker’s Countryside (another Cricket sequel that, if you ask me, is no better or worse than this one) is still kicking around.
Incidentally, I liked the Cricket series so much as a kid that I wrote fan fiction about it. Rereading it as an adult (the book, not my fan fiction), I started to wonder what the deal was with Tucker and Harry’s relationship. Two confirmed bachelors, one of them highly fastidious, sharing a one-bedroom in the Theater District? Maybe you see where I’m going with this.
THE MCGURK MYSTERIES
If there was any justice in the world, the McGurk Mysteries would be as big as Encyclopedia Brown. The books, of which there were at least a dozen in print at one point, were about a detective agency of 10-year-olds who solved funny, age-appropriate mysteries around their neighborhood. In Ocean’s Eleven fashion, all the kids had a specialty: McGurk was the charismatic, Clooney-esque leader; Willie Sandowsky had a massive schnoz and a correspondingly exquisite sense of smell; Wanda Grieg was the muscle; Brains Bellingham was (big surprise) the brains; and Joey Rockaway didn’t bring all that much to the table other than being the narrator, but he–or, rather, author E.W. Hildick–was very, very good at it.
My youngest son would love these books if I could just convince him that the 30-year-old copies I bought on the Internet are okay to pick up even though the paper’s disintegrating and they smell like an elderly person’s closet.
IRVING AND ME
This was late New Yorker cartoonist and Danny and the Dinosaur creator Syd Hoff’s only novel for older kids (I think), and I kind of get why it’s out of print. Which is not to say it wasn’t a pleasure to reread. The story of Artie, a 13-year-old Jewish kid from Brooklyn who moves to Florida and semi-reluctantly befriends big-eared, slightly odd Irving, still holds up reasonably well–Artie’s narration is breezy, likable, and contains a pleasant whiff of Borscht Belt; his problems are entirely relatable; and the ending’s even a little touching.
But it’s very much of its time, by which I mean the 13-year-olds in it occasionally smoke cigarettes, look at dirty magazines, obsess over girls, and generally act in ways that, while true to the lived experience of 13-year-olds both in 1967 and today, tend to get contemporary kid-lit gatekeepers a little bent out of shape.
Speaking of bent of out shape, the last stop on my preteen literary nostalgia tour is…
THE SERGEANT: BLOODY BASTOGNE
Let me be very, very clear: THIS IS NOT A CHILDREN’S BOOK, AND I HAD NO BUSINESS READING IT WHEN I WAS ELEVEN.
But hoo-boy! The Sergeant: Bloody Bastogne was one of a series of pulp novels for adults written under the name Gordon Davis, which must have been a pseudonym, because…hoo-boy! I stumbled on this one at a shopping mall bookstore in Rockford, Illinois when I happened to have $2.25 plus tax in my pocket, and I decided to buy it because at age eleven, I was insatiably interested in World War II.
Whether due to incompetence, apathy, or a loophole in the local blue laws, the checkout clerk sold it to me. And oh, man! Did I get a thrill out of reading this book. Sergeant CJ Mahoney was a US Army Ranger who was expert at two things: slaughtering Nazis in ridiculously graphic ways, and engaging in even more ridiculously graphic behavior with the Belgian farm girls who conveniently wandered into the narrative whenever there was a lull in the combat.
This was like the literary equivalent of playing Grand Theft Auto. You know how some people believe that it doesn’t matter what a kid reads, as long as he’s reading? They’re wrong. But I will say this: The Sergeant: Bloody Bastogne unquestionably opened my eyes to the almost limitless potential of books to expose a reader to new worlds.
Got a favorite book that’s out-of-print? Drop a line in the comments–I’d love to hear about it.
New Lands, the second book in The Chronicles of Egg trilogy, arrives in stores on Thursday, and it’s REALLY GOOD.
Just ask Kirkus Reviews:
“Occasionally gruesome, often funny and full of suspense, this one is sure to win Egg some new fans.”
“…fantastic characters and non-stop action…very difficult to put down…like riding a racing locomotive downhill with no brakes…”
Or this review from an actual kid!:
“New Lands is a MUST read book… I don’t want to give away the secret Egg discovers in the Okalu temple, but I didn’t see it coming and it made me so happy…all my friends at school can’t wait to read!
Take it from the kid–get a copy today from…
Or, if you live in NYC, you can drop by the Strand on 12th Street, where last Friday they had two New Lands hardcovers in stock for $8.50. Which is annoying, for like five different reasons. But don’t get me started.