A reference question on fantasy for a Grade 6 Harry Potter hater

I don’t want to be redundant with these reference question posts, but I can’t help but jot something down when I find myself handing over a giant stack of books to a hungry lil’ chidler.

Tonight a Grade 6 gal came in looking for some good fantasy books.  The staff member on the Information Desk called me out to field this one.  I joyfully skipped away from my current duty of something boring and administrativey to help out.

Fantasy is a tough genre when it comes to recommending things as it can mean very different things to different people.  This is how it went down:

What she had already in her book bag:

  • Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

This was a big tip-off.  No Susan Cooper/Tolkien/Brian Jacques/Monica Hughes for this gal!

What she told me she likes:

  • All Roald Dahl (oh, now we’re talkin’!)
  • Scarlett by Cathy Cassidy (d’oh!  I’ve never read it!)
  • Candy Apple and Poison Apple series (hmm…the plot thickens)

What she nixed right off the bat:

Before I recommended anything we had a bit of general chat about what’s super popular in the fairy tale/fantasy genre right now.  She expressed immediate disdain for the following:

  • Harry Potter (never read it, doesn’t want to)
  • Princess Diaries series (she read some and they got “too boring”)
  • Spiderwick Chronicles (no explanation, just a scrunched up nose)
  • The Graveyard Book (she tried it but never got into it)
  • A Tale Dark And Grimm by Adam Gidwitz (I told her about the plot and she was promptly horrified)

Further adding to the challenge was that she has seen almost every movie made in the history of the world.  This means she has seen lots of the terrible, terrible movie versions of very unterrible books.

What I recommended:

From what she told me, I was getting a distinct British humour/fairy tale/more-complex-book vibe from her (the Apple series aside).  Here’s what I recommended. I’ ve put them into categories here because organization please me.

For their cheeky Dahl-esque humour:

  • Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket (she loved the movie so I gave her Book 4 as the movie roughly ends around Book 3)
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
  • The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry
  • Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce (after hugging it and saying “I almost don’t want to give this to you because I want to take it home again and read it”)

For their fairy tale-ness:

  • Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
  • Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull
  • Inkspell trilogy by Cornelia Funke
  • Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley

Plug for Canadian fantasy:

  • Silverwing by Kenneth Oppel

Wild Card:

  • When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (it turns out someone bought this for her and she hasn’t read it yet!)

What she noticed on display and took:

  • Witch’s Business by Diana Wynne Jones

Now that I’m sitting here writing this post, I can think of so many more, but the poor dear had to carry her bag home so I think that was quite enough for one visit.

Very interesting how these things play out…and this may be the first child I have ever encountered who claims to like fantasy, but loathe Harry Potter.

October Was a Busy Chidler Book Month in Vancouver!

I spend a lot of time on Twitter – about 72% of that time is devoted to being jealous of all the cool stuff that happens in New York and Boston.  But Vancouver can get pretty bumpin’, especially in October and February.

October brings the Vancouver Children’s Literature Roundtable’s (VCLR’s) Illustrator’s Breakfast and the Vancouver International Writers Festival.  February brings the VCLR’s Serendipity Conference (2011 will have Matt Holm, Raina Telgemeier and Gene Luen Yang!)

This year’s Illustrator’s Breakfast featured Pierre Pratt.  It really doesn’t get any better than French-Canadian illustrators.  I mean, seriously.  There’s Monsieur Pratt, of course, but there’s also Marie Louise Gay and Melanie Watt and so many others  (this is such a fun website if you want to see a buncha Quebec illustrator talent).

Pierre Pratt was very charming and showed us some striking Little Red Riding Hood illustrations – while he doesn`t have a publisher attached to the project, he’s thinking of doing a wordless Little Red book.  That would be so cool!  I need to start bringing my camera to things, but here’s a crappy Blackberry photo:

You can't see it very well, but that's Little Red actually walking up the Wolf's tongue. Amazing!

The next week was the Vancouver International Writers Festival where I had the pleasure of introducing Kenneth Oppel, Richard Scrimger, Kevin Sylvester and Richard Newsome.  Here are a few things you should know about each of them:

Kenneth Oppel: He’s a super funny guy.  Who knew!?  He looks so serious and pensive (and dreamy!) in all his author photos but he’s a laugh riot.

Richard Scrimger: Do Americans know about him?  They should.  Add him to your “I need something for a teenage boy who won’t read anything” list.  Oh boy, and he’s so funny too.

Kevin Sylvester: Also funny!  There was a lot of funny going on.  I don’t think there are enough books about kids and cooking and mystery.  Sylvester has this market down.  And he sent me a thank you email after his presentation!  So classy!  I’ll be printing that off and selling it on eBay if times get tough…

Richard Newsome: I’m sad to report that Richard Newsome didn’t offer to adopt me.  You can tell he’d be the greatest dad and The Billionaire’s Curse is so good (and so hot right now).  And the book trailer is beyond impressive and special effect-y (the first one on the page).  Puts Titanic to shame.

And I almost forgot – I won a piece of Julie Flett’s artwork at the silent auction at the Pierre Pratt breakfast.  It now hangs in my office.  She is one of my all-time favourite illustrators and was just nominated for a Governor General’s award.  NB: The Moccasins is the simplest, most beautiful story for kids growing up in foster families (not to mention being a positive, loving portrayal of a First Nations family).

"Blueberry Bird"

These were just the events I managed to get to – October also brought the start of a year-long position as the Head of Youth Services at the Port Moody Public Library (the most fantastic public library I could ever hope to work at), my very first guest review (i.e. – the long ass 950 word review) for Quill & Quire and committing to be on the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s 2011 Best Books for Kids & Teens Committee.  I’ll be looking at non-fiction, so things might get a little factual ’round these parts for the next couple months.

Book Covers: Testicular Heart Cherries are to Girly YA as Silhouettes are to Evolution Kidlit

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that silhouetted book covers and evolution have been mad played out lately.  Behold, this image I constructed with Microsoft Word and a screenshot program (Photoshop is beyond me) that I posted a few months ago to illustrate what many others already know:

Sidenote: I am introducing Half Brother author Kenneth Oppel (along with some other very talented authors like Richard Newsome and Richard Scrimger) at the Vancouver International Writers Festival next month.  Lots of swooning to follow.

I snarikly tweeted some time ago that Lo Bosworth of The Hills has a book coming out that features some testicular-looking cherries on the front.  But it seems she’s not alone!  Alexandra Diaz’s Of All the Stupid Things also has the same testicular cherries, complete with matching heart stem!

Diaz’s cover was first, so Lo is officially getting sloppy seconds.  If I find a third cover like this (three cherries – very Vegas slot machine), methinks it will officially be a trend.