Diana Wynne Jones, 1934-2011

Posted by kacates on March 28, 2011

It feels like half of my blog posts lately are to tell you about wonderful childrens' and young adult authors who have died.  Of those we've lost recently, though, this one by far hits me the hardest, because Diana Wynne Jones is one of my all-time favorites.  Ever since I first read Howl's Moving Castle as a teenager (and I'm still mad that I didn't discover her books until then – I would have adored them as a younger kid) I've made it my mission to read everything that she puts out.

If you've never heard of Diana, she wrote some of the funniest, cleverest fantasy around.  Howl's Moving Castle – about a young girl cursed into becoming an old woman who then has a run-in with the supposedly terrifying Wizard Howl – is a great place to start.  And afterward you can watch Hayao Miyazaki's animated movie based on the book, which makes some changes to the book's plot but is equally funny and charming.  But I warn you: once you start with Howl, you won't be able to stop until you've read every single book.

There are lots of great reminiscences of Diana Wynne Jones floating around the web already.  Author Neil Gaiman has a wonderful one, as does Robin McKinley.  Here's the Guardian's obituary for more information on her life and work.

More Sad News

Posted by kacates on February 23, 2011

I just found out that YA author L.K. Madigan passed away today from pancreatic cancer. Last month she had announced her cancer in a heartfelt post on her blog that blew me away.  She was pretty clear in her post that she knew she didn't have much time left, but I'm still shocked and upset to find her gone so soon.  I've never met Madigan, but I feel like I know her – her voice comes through so strongly in her writing.

Madigan, by the way, wrote the incredible Flash Burnout, which won the American Library Association's William C. Morris award for a debut author.  It's about, among other things, a boy named Blake who gets tangled up in his friend Marissa's life after finding out the woman in a photograph he took for class is her long-lost, meth addicted mom. It was one of my favorite books of last year, so I encourage all of you to run in and check it out.  She also wrote The Mermaid's Mirror, which just came out this past year.  I haven't read it yet, but I've heard good reviews so I'm eager to get to it.  I'm just incredibly sad that we won't be hearing more from a great new voice in YA literature.  If you're curious to know more about Madigan's books, check out this post from the librarians at Stacked, who post their own review of Flash Burnout as well as links to other reviews of Madigan's books.  They're also offering a chance to win a copy of Flash Burnout.

Sad news

Posted by kacates on February 8, 2011

The BBC is reporting that Redwall author Brian Jacques died over the weekend of a heart attack at the age of 71.  Jacques wrote over two dozen of the Redwall books since its debut in 1986, featuring the adventures of talking animals in a medieval world based around the abbey of Redwall.  I know the series has been incredibly popular here since often I can't find the books on the shelves because they've been checked out.  If you haven't read the Redwall series for yourself yet, I recommend starting with the first, called Redwall, although many of the books can be read in any order.  The Wikipedia page for the series lists the books both in the order they were published, and in chronological order within the series, so you can choose to read them any way you want.

Dear Teen Me

Posted by kacates on February 3, 2011

Ever wanted to write a letter to an earlier version of yourself? Maybe you wanted to keep yourself from making a horrible mistake, maybe you wanted to point and laugh at what you once thought was cool, or maybe you just wanted to reassure yourself that eventually life gets a little better. Whatever the case might be, this is exactly what a group of young adult authors have gotten together to do at Dear Teen Me.  Alternately hilarious and heartbreaking, these letters are a great opportunity to find out a little bit more about what some of your favorite authors were like as teens, and what they'd say if they could send letters to their past selves.

I hope you guys know this already, but stealing is BAD.

Posted by kacates on January 20, 2011

YA author Saundra Mitchell posted a few days ago about a disturbing trend – the illegal downloading of ebooks, otherwise known as stealing. Here's what she says:

I’ve been very open about the money I’ve made and not made, to help give the writing community some perspective. So I’m going to be very open about money today. I’ve told you before that I made a $15,000 advance on SHADOWED SUMMER. In two years, I’ve managed to earn back $12,000 of that.

It’s going out of print in hardcover because demand for it has dwindled to 10 or so copies a month. This means I will never get a royalty check for this book. By all appearances, nobody wants it anymore.

But those appearances are deceiving. According to one download site’s stats, people are downloading SHADOWED SUMMER at a rate of 800 copies a week. When the book first came out, it topped out at 3000+ downloads a week.

If even HALF of those people who downloaded my book that week had bought it, I would have hit the New York Times Bestseller list.

She has more about this issue here, and several other YA authors weigh in on the subject in the comments.  Basically, every time you illegally download a free copy of a book (or movie, or song, etc.), you're robbing the creator of that content of their fair earnings.  The fewer official sales, the less money they make, and the lower the likelihood of publishers taking a chance on another book of theirs.   And if you really like an author and their books, why would you do that to them?

Now, none of us are made of money, and being a book lover would be a very expensive habit if you had to buy every book you wanted to read.  Luckily, there's a much better option.  Here at the Normal Public Library, our goal is to provide the public with what they want to read.  As the teen librarian, I do my best to pick out the books that I think you guys are going to want, but I'm not a mindreader, so I always welcome feedback.  Let me know what books you're into right now, and I'll buy them.  If LOTS of people tell me they want a book, I'll buy more copies!  This way, the books sell more, the author makes more money, and the publisher is hopefully willing to take a chance on his or her next book.  And you still get to read the book for free!

Even if it's a book we don't have, you're not out of luck, because of a cool thing called interlibrary loan.  Basically, if we don't have it, we'll get it for you by ordering it from another library.  Our policy at NPL is that as long as the book is available at a library somewhere in the state of Illinois, we can get it for you here.  So unless you're looking for something REALLY obscure, you should have no problem tracking down a copy to read for free.

One last thing: the author I quoted at the beginning of this post?  Her first book, Shadowed Summer, is available right here at NPL in the teen section – in fact, we have two copies.  I recently read it myself and thoroughly enjoyed it.  If you like creepy ghost stories with a little bit of romance, then I highly suggest you run in and check it out now!  Her second book, The Vespertine, comes out this March, and I've already preordered the library's copy and can't wait to read it myself.