Archive for the ‘Praising’ Category

My Library Valentine

February 12, 2016

When Lois Lowry spoke at our local library event last Spring, she told one little story that didn’t end up in my reportage (and one little story that did—you really MUST read it! It’s amazing!  I’ll wait here until you get back).

The speech was a kickoff to the library’s One Book One Read event, and the One Read, of course, was The Giver.  I first read The Giver when I checked it out from the local library—the same way I “first read” almost all the books I read.  And always have.  When I was a kid I visited the local branch library every Saturday, unless that was one of the Saturdays I took the bus downtown, and in that case I visited the BIG multi-story central operation.  I honestly don’t know what my childhood would have been like without the public library, and no telling what my adulthood would be like without it either.

So here’s Ms. Lowry’s little story: not long ago, some young friends visited from Europe—France, I think.  A country we would consider “developed” and not blighted by years of Soviet servitude.  While entertaining these girls she took them to the local library, where they browsed the stacks and chose some books to check out on her card.  Back in the car and on their way to somewhere else, one of the girls asked, “What do you have to pay to belong to the library?”

Ms. Lowry was a bit startled by the question, and so I am.  Why, nothing.  That’s what we pay.

Of course it’s not technically true; you just don’t see the library line-item on your county tax statement.  But still, the public library you see in almost every community in America is one of America’s better ideas.  And a surprising number of Americans still think so.

Here’s the good news, from the ALA’s Quotable Facts brochure, printed in 2013:

  • 58% of American adults possess a library card.
  • Americans to libraries (public, school, and academic) over three times more often than they go to the movies.
  • Reference librarians answer nearly 6.6 million questions every week.
  • There are more public libraries than there are McDonald’s restaurants.  (You just have to look harder for them—maybe libraries should have the equivalent of golden arches on a fifty-foot pole.)
  • Americans check out an average of eight books/year.  (Since about 24% of adults have not even read a book in the past year, somebody is doing a whole lot of checking.)
  • The highest achieving schools have well-staffed and well-funded libraries–but you already know that!

America even designates Library Week in April.  This isn’t April, but it is close to Valentine’s Day, so this is my whacked-out, bedraggled-lace, hastily-constructed Valentine to America’s libraries.  We’ve been together through good times and bad, and I don’t know what I’d do without you.



Horn Book Reviews IDK

January 15, 2016

I would call Horn Book the  premier children’s-book review journal–what Atlantic Monthly is to horn bookNewsweek, Horn Book is to . . . oh well, I’d better not make any comparisons, because the other review journals have been nice to me.  The magazine is  appropriately based in Boston, the bastion of literacy, and does not include every book reviewed in its annual guide, so I’m honored that I Don’t Know How the Story Ends has appeared in the current issue.  I can’t provide a link but can share the review itself.

And it’s good!  I would change one word, though–guess which one?

When Isobel’s father enlists in the Medical Corps during WWI, his assurance that “bullets won’t get me” offers only uneasy comfort. Seeking a change of scenery from rainy Seattle, Isobel’s mother takes her and her younger sister to visit their ebullient aunt, Buzzy, in Los Angeles. The adults believe that Aunt Buzzy’s thirteen-year-old stepson, Ranger, will be a great companion for the girls, but he’s more interested in making films than making friends. Ranger and his buddy Sam are obsessed with filming a movie intended to catch the eye of D. W. Griffith and create an entrée for themselves into the industry.

While long on technical skill, the boys have only a bare-bones script, so Isobel steps in with rewrites. These end up being unintentionally autobiographical, with the worry about her father never far from her mind. Cheaney establishes setting partly by name-dropping, introducing readers to Charlie Chaplin, Mack Sennett, and Douglas Fairbanks. But the real sense of the times comes with the freedom of the characters to roam the Hollywood Hills on their own and, like many a movie character from those days, the confidence that they can indeed produce a fine show. There’s plenty of melodrama to both the movie script and Isobel’s real-life situation, but her coming of age rings true.


Did you guess?  It’s in the last sentence and starts with a “b” and I advise parents and teachers never to use it while correcting their students’ writing assignment.  Yep: it’s the word “but,” which makes “melodrama” sound like it’s a bad thing.  Most fictional stories sound like melodrama (or soap opera) when you relate the bare plot, and this story is big on “pathos,” both onscreen and off.  The word but waves a little red flag in the middle of the sentence: beware the melodrama!  Not a complaint, though–there are plenty of  great words like ebullient, real, true, confidence.  So here’s one more: Thanks!

Coundown to IDK: First Reviews

July 31, 2015

hollywood2It’s nail-biting time.  The final edits have been made, the blurbs have been solicited, the Advance Reader Copies have gone out into the big wide world.  Reviews generally start appearing one to three months before a book’s official release, to give librarians and booksellers time to consider whether they want to order a particular title or not.  Sooner is better–or at least that’s how it looks to me.  Sooner means the reviewer is intrigued by the cover or the premise and is eager to read the book.  And if they like it, they are eager to share.   That’s why I’m excited to get two reviews of IDK already–eleven weeks ahead of official release!  One is very good and one is great.  The great one, from Kirkus Reviews, is online (see the pull quote and click the link).  The very good one is from School Library Journal, which generally doesn’t publish reviews online.  So I’m quoting it in full.

I have a shot at four more review journals: Publishers Weekly, Booklist, The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Hornbook.  None of them, of course, have to acknowledge IDK at all.  But I’ll be watching, with eagerness and trepidation.

Author: J.B. Cheaney

Review Issue Date: September 1, 2015
Online Publish Date: July 27, 2015
Publisher:Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Pages: 288
Price ( Hardcover ): $16.99
Publication Date: October 6, 2015
ISBN ( Hardcover ): 978-1-4926-0944-5
Category: Fiction

“The novel is packed with cameos by Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and Charlie Chaplin…fascinating tidbits about the early days of film, and a relentless series of action scenes. Set dressing and quick pace aside, as narrated by Isobel, the story relies on—and delivers—solid characterization to drive it forward. Impressive on all fronts.”

The review from School Library Journal (not available online) doesn’t come with a star, but still makes IDK sound enticing–to me, anyway:

Cheaney, J.B. I Don’t Know How the Story Ends. 288p. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. Oct. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781492609445.

“The electrifying setting of early Hollywood, along with the ever-relevant story of a young girl’s search for stability in an increasingly chaotic world, make this a winner…Industrious, creative, and resourceful young characters will charm readers interested in the life-changing magic of filmmaking.”

Gr 5-7–Isobel’s father is serving overseas in the Great War and she misses him terribly. But when her mother moves the family from Seattle to Los Angeles for the summer, her world is truly turned upside down. This is the golden age of cinema and Hollywood is the center of it all. Isobel’s tour guide is her stepcousin, Ranger, a biracial renegade auteur with a habit for sneaking onto film sets to stalk his favorite directors. Ranger and his friend Sam, the son of an alcoholic cameraman, have a plan to make a moving picture and enlist Isobel and her impulsive little sister, Sylvie, to star. Unfortunately, this plan also involves more than a little “borrowing” of film equipment and facilities. The 13-year-old sheds her responsible nature and is swept up in the allure of authoring a happy ending to her story. Cheaney’s well-researched descriptions of the complex filmmaking equipment and processes of the silent era will surely amaze any reader used to casually filming their world with a smartphone. Cheaney also recounts several real silent films of the era, which may encourage some readers to broaden their movie-watching choices. The story tends to feel unnecessarily long at points, but the electrifying setting of early Hollywood, along with the ever-relevant story of a young girl’s search for stability in an increasingly chaotic world, make this a winner.

VERDICT Industrious, creative, and resourceful young characters will charm readers interested in the life-changing magic of filmmaking.