O Canada on the ALA Exhibit Floor

Yes, I’m still posting about ALA because it was my first one and dang exciting.  If you had just experienced Christmas for the first time on June 22, don’t you think you would still be blogging about it too? I thought so.

Previous to actually attending ALA, I would follow the conference hashtag on Twitter and feel generally sorry for myself that I had never attended.  These feelings of self-pity would really flare when I saw photos from the exhibit floor – “Oh look, there’s Mo Willems just casually strolling by!” someone would post along with a twitpic.  Way to rub it in.

The thing is, I was always really curious to see what the actual booths looked like – especially the booths of my beloved Canadian publishers.  No one really ever posted pictures of the exhibits themselves, just the fabulous people inhabiting them for four days.  So this post is basically for myself pre-June 22, 2012. But hopefully some of you who haven’t attended ALA, or didn’t get a chance to stop at the great Canadian kidlit booths, will be mildly interested.

Kids Can Press

Kids Can Press is the equivalent of the person who really gets the party started.  And, try as you might, it’s hard not to get excited about a Christmas Scaredy book. Behold their booth:

Groundwood Books

Has Groundwood ever published an unclassy book?  I think not.  I am also loving their new book, I Have the Right to Be a Child which teachers will be clamoring for in the Fall, I know. Because I won’t be working for National Geographic anytime soon, all I have is this photo of their banner.  Sigh. But it is a beautiful banner.

Tundra Books

One of my favourites and publisher of Susin Nielsen who I am apparently obsessed with judging by my last couple posts.  And the cover of The French Fry King makes me so happy.

Fitzhenry & Whiteside

Publisher of one of my faves, Shirley Woods – does anyone do books like Shirley Woods?  Novels about fictional animals (that don’t talk and aren’t creepily anthropomorphized!) that are an amazing hybrid of fiction and non-fiction and completely engaging/dramatic?

Annick Press

They do it all.  From the much-buzzed creep show of Erebos (which I still need to read but is never on the shelves) to Robert Munsch to non-fiction queen (and awesome gal) Tanya Lloyd Kyi, Annick is all awesome.

I somehow missed getting a picture of Orca’s booth, which is bad because I love them and they are the closest geographically to my apartment.  They are also coming out with a very interesting new YA series called Seven. The premise: a grandfather with a pretty interesting/adventurous past dies.  He has seven grandsons.  They all takes different paths and are presumably affected by grandpa’s death in different ways.  Each of the seven books is penned by a different, highly awesome Canadian author.  It sounds like a Canuck 39 Clues for teens.  Should be nifty.

Big apologies if I’m missing any Canadian youth publishers here.  It really was great fun to see them at the exhibits – felt like a little bit of home.

Let me close this blog post with a nod to the subpar Sbarro in the Hilton food court, provider of my lunch – a piece of cheese pizza – for three straight days at ALA.  Because I was entirely too busy and overstimulated to find a tastier, more nutritious option, I tip my hat to thee for being so convenient and having a way shorter line than the equally subpar Baja Fresh.


The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen

Let us all rise and give thanks for Susin Nielsen’s amazing new book:

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen. Pubs September 11, 2012

I picked this ARC up at the Tundra booth at ALA.  My pal Kay did too.  Before we even read it, we were tremendously excited.  We had a conversation that went roughly like this before the USBBY panel on writing about war for young people:

Kay: I got Susin Nielsen’s new –

Shannon: (interrupting as usual): Oh me too.  It looks really –

Kay and Shannon: (in unison) Really good.

Kay: I think this is going to be the one to really break her into the American market.

Shannon: Me too.  And then we can be all smug about it.

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen tells the story of thirteen-year-old Henry and his dad.  They have just moved to Vancouver (the entire story takes place within a three block radius of my apartment which is so cool. But I digress).  Where is Henry’s mom?  She’s in a psychiatric facility in Ontario.  Why is she in a psychiatric facility?  Because Henry’s older brother, Jesse, took a hunting rifle to school and shot a classmate before shooting himself.  Henry is now being encouraged by his hippie therapist to keep a journal as a means to help process his feelings.  The results are hilarious and poignant and absolutely true-to-life.  In other words, you will LOL and you will :`(

That is a crying emoticon by the way – not some weird Canadian symbol used to review stellar books.

You will just fall in love with Henry.  He has gained a bit of weight since the tragedy and refers to his new un-svelte bits as his “wobblies.”  He loves wrestling.  He never fails to notice his female neighbour’s huge bazongas. When he shuts down emotionally, he will only talk in a robot voice. He is both sensitive and rude, deeply insightful and totally clueless.  He is Nielsen’s most authentic, hilarious character to date, which is really saying something because no one can write a middle grade character like Susin Nielsen.

This book also manages to deal with the aftermath of a school shooting in a way that is totally realistic without ever tipping over into melodrama.  Like The Fault in Our Stars was so much more than a cancer book, this is so much more than a school shooting book. There are some definite tougher moments, especially around the bullying that Henry’s brother endured before committing the murder-suicide, but they are quick and never unnecessary.  This is solid middle grade material that is ideal for Grades 6-8 and won’t traumatize your heartier Grade 5s.  I think some librarians might order it because of the subject matter, but they will be pleasantly surprised to find that it makes just as big of a contribution to their humour collection as their “issue” collection. Fans of Tom Angleberger and Jack Gantos will really dig this.

When I was trying to explain this book and Susin Nielsen to my mom, she quickly interjected “I know who Susin Nielsen is, Shannon.  I watched the credits of Degrassi. Credits are very important. Americans are really missing out on how awesome Degrassi Junior High was in the 1980s – the original series before Drake was on it.  The coolest thing about Degrassi was the ensemble nature of the cast.  A few episodes would focus on a handful of characters and then the focus would shift to other characters and their storylines.  Half the fun of watching Degrassi was seeing your favourite characters walk by in the background; the actors would be principal actors in one episode and extras the next. Nielsen wrote a whole bunch of Degrassi episodes, and her mad screenwriting skillz really shine in her novels as she also takes the ensemble approach with her books.  Ambrose from Word Nerd is on Henry’s school trivia team. Karen from Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom is Henry’s upstairs neighbour.  The list goes on.  I can’t tell you how much kids love making these connections and reporting them to us at the information desk.

So for those of you in the know about Susin Nielsen: this book lives up to everything you are expecting and more.  For those of you who are Nielsen neophytes, stock up on her stuff now so you can share in my smugness.

ALA: 7 Published Books, 7 ARCs and Some Susin Nielsen Love

In total, I brought home 14 books from ALA. Of those 14 books, 6 were published books I paid for, 1 was a free published book and 7 were ARCs.

I had heard a lot about people going wild in the exhibits, gunning for stuff like a scene out of Life As We Knew It. And there has been much buzz about that 22 minute ALA book haul video that’s floating around. Stacked has a very thorough post on the whole thing. I’ll admit to watching most of it and being overtaken with jealousy at the Gary D. Schmidt ARC.

It might just be me and my 700 square foot world, BUT WHERE DO PEOPLE PUT ALL OF THESE BOOKS? I have three very skinny, small Ikea bookcases to my name. One shelf is taken up entirely by The Series of Unfortunate Events. Another houses the complete works of Leonard Marcus. That leaves me with 2.75 teensy bookcases. Thus, I have to be extremely selective about the books I bring into my life.

Perhaps the best solution to all of the debates around people going crazy on the ALA exhibit floor is to simply ban exhibit entry to those who live somewhere with an affordable housing market. Us Vancouverites and New Yorkers would be very dainty and respectable because we barely have room to brush our teeth, let alone store an extra book or two. I kid, I kid.

For those interested, this is what I scooped up:

6 Published Books I Purchased

 

From L to R: Stay by Deb Caletti, I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen, The Monster’s Monster and Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell, Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S.King, Amulet #1 by Kazu Kibuishi

Stay completely floored me in the sense that I was never able to sympathize with girls in relationships with scary dudes before reading this book. Jon Klassen is Canadian (!) and I Want My Hat Back has saved my butt zillions of occasions in storytimes with rowdy six-year-olds. Patrick McDonnell makes my heart warm. A.S. King makes complex things easy to understand. A signed Kazu Kibuishi will bring me tons o’ cred with nine-year-old male patrons for the foreseeable future.

 

1 Free Published Book

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

My pal Kay and I are apparently the only people in the world who have yet to read this book. Please don’t tell Mr. Schu. But it will get read!

6 ARCs

 

 

L to R in order of pub date: Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead, Everyday by David Levithan, Amulet #5 Prince of the Elves by Kazu Kibuishi, Drama by Raina Telgemeier, In a Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz, Ask the Passengers by A.S. King

 

I think these were probably on most school and youth librarian’s lists to grab, so nothing terribly original here. But I want to tell you – especially you Yankees – about this, the seventh and most blessed ARC:

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen. Tundra Books. Pubs September 11, 2012

Susin Nielsen is the next big thing. There is an episode of The Simpsons where Bart brings Santa’s Little Helper in for show-and-tell and Milhouse proudly brags “I knew the dog before it came to class!” Not to liken Susin to a cartoon dog, but this captures how most Canadian librarians feel about Susin Nielsen. We are going to feel very smug and brag alot when she gets 200 person signing lines at future ALAs.

She is a mix between Tom Angleberger, Jack Gantos and Susan Juby with just a touch of a teenaged Dav Pilkey (she isn’t afraid of some potty language). She was a screenwriter for Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High (the original series pre-Drake). Degrassi taught every Canadian born between 1979-1984 about being a teenager. She is funny, smart and somehow has access to the brain of a Grade 7 boy. If you haven’t read Word Nerd or Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom, you are missing out. My buddy Vikki has a great review of Clooney here.

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen is about a thirteen-year-old boy (named Henry K. Larsen, not surprisingly). Henry’s brother shoots a classmate before shooting himself. Tough stuff? Yes. Will Susin Nielsen somehow manage to infuse this terrible tragedy with enlightening-but-sensitive humour? If her track record is any indication, yes. I will be celebrating Canada Day this weekend lounging in Saskatchewan and reading this book (right after I wrap up a Quill & Quire review of another Canadian favourite’s new YA novel). I can’t wait.