We’re working on Jarrett’s Fall 2019 Speaking schedule now (filling quickly), so if you’re interested in hosting him for an event, get in touch with us right away!
Courtesy of the American Library Association
Posted December 11, 2018
Big congrats to Vesper Stamper, who’s gorgeous YA novel What the Night Sings has just been nominated for the prestigious William C. Morris YA Debut Award! First given in 2009, the award honors a book published by a first-time author writing for teens and celebrating impressive new voices in young adult literature. The award's namesake is William C. Morris, an influential innovator in the publishing world and an advocate for marketing books for children and young adults. Bill Morris left an impressive mark on the field of children’s and young adult literature. He was beloved in the publishing field and the library profession for his generosity and marvelous enthusiasm for promoting literature for children and teens.
What the Night Sings is a haunting, first-person account of Gerta, a musically talented teenager, who learns of her Jewish heritage only after being sent to Auschwitz and, later, Bergen-Belsen. Torn from her father, she clings to his viola and discovers her own voice and strength after the liberation. Lovely, lyrical prose and ethereal illustrations make Stamper’s unusual story sing.
The winner will be announced at the ALA Youth Media Awards, on January 28, 2019.
Congrats, Therese Anne Fowler - who’s gorgeous novel A Well-Behaved Woman has been nominated for the 2019 Southern Book Prize! Finalists were chosen by southern independent booksellers, and represent books that are written by southerners for southerners, published in 2018. Voting is now underway, and can be done in person at participating indies or via the link here.
December 2018: Historical Inspirations
Looking for the perfect book to gift your friends and family this holiday season? Historical fiction is a genre that draws in nearly everyone, and novels based on real events and historical figures are even more likely to compel those on your list this year. These armchair historians and literary archeologists take inspiration from the past, sparking beautiful narratives that not only entertain, but enlighten. Happy Holidays!
Described as "high fantasy" and an "accessible way to read Greek mythology," the Springfield-Green County Library’s One Read title for 2019 is the mythological fiction novel Circe by Madeline Miller. The characters in Greek mythology, and Circe, in particular, are relevant today because they have the same joys and struggles – even dysfunctional families.
The New York Times calls it "A bold and subversive retelling of the goddess's story." See why "Circe" is called "a triumph of storytelling, an intoxicating epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, love and loss, as well as a celebration of indomitable female strength in a man's world."
Courtesy of Publishers Weekly
Posted Nov 16, 2018
Sleep, the holy grail of the new (or, in this case, repeat) parent, is the subject, in a way, of Karen Thompson Walker’s haunting, hypnotic second novel. The Dreamers (Random House, Jan. 2019) takes place in the fictional Southern California mountain town of Santa Lora, where a sickness descends one evening in early fall. A first-year student at the local college leaves a party, goes to bed, and then doesn’t wake up; a few days later, she’s dead. Soon after, another girl falls asleep. She doesn’t die, but nor can she be roused. Though the college attempts to quarantine the students, the sickness spreads, first among the residents of a dorm and then outward: to the janitor who cleaned their rooms, to a clerk at a convenience store, a backpacker, and a young bride, and soon to the doctors and nurses caring for the sick teens, who sleep “like children, mouths open, cheeks flushed. Breathing as rhythmic as swells on the sea.”
As if the creep of a mysterious sleeping sickness weren’t eerie enough, the world around Santa Lora seems to shimmer and vibrate with threat. The mountain lake is vanishing, the region is prone to earthquakes and landslides, and the forest is “fertile for fire.” As Walker’s compassionate, omniscient narrator asks, “What if misfortune can be drawn to a place, like lightning to a rod?” Keep Reading…
I was never that interested in history. A child of the ’60s, I always thought of myself as a feminist, but I happily deferred to my husband — a poli-sci major — when it came to guessing Jeopardy! questions or helping our three children with their social studies homework. All those treaties and battle dates just didn’t move me.
So in the spring of 2000, when I drove a couple of hours north of my home to tour the historic Bellamy-Ferriday House & Garden in Bethlehem, Connecticut, it was mainly to see the property’s famous lilac gardens. My mom had recently died, and I had a sense that the estate, once the country home of philanthropist and Broadway actress Caroline Ferriday, would take me out of myself and my sorrow for an afternoon.
I lingered among the sweet-scented lilacs, and then on a whim decided to tour the interior. Walking through the rambling 18th-century house, I came to Ferriday’s study, which remains just as she left it when she died, in 1990. On her desk stood a black-and-white photo of a group of smiling women. “Those are the rabbits,” the guide told me. “Prisoners at Ravensbrück, the largest all-female concentration camp in Hitler’s Third Reich.” These Catholic women had been arrested during World War II for their involvement in the Polish resistance. They were called rabbits because Nazi doctors turned them into laboratory animals, operating on their legs to insert glass, dirt and tetanus bacteria, or to remove bone or muscle tissue. Some of the 74 young Polish women subjected to these experiments died of infection or disease; others were executed when their usefulness ended. But 63 survived the war, and of these, Ferriday brought 35 to the U.S. for rehabilitation.
After hearing their story, I was unable to get these brave women out of my head. Recently retired from my job as an advertising copywriter, I had been planning to relax. Instead, day after day, I immersed myself in World War II history. I stayed up late, listening to books on tape about sea battles and the Luftwaffe as my husband slept beside me. Before long, I — a person who had never written anything much longer than a TV commercial — was traveling to Europe for research and working 12-hour days to outline a novel based on the rabbits’ story. Funny how curiosity can make a person work harder than any 9-to-5 job ever could. Keep Reading…
Courtesy of BookTrib
Posted October 24, 2018
An actress, inventor, and keeper of secrets, the beautiful Hedy Lamarr was among many Jews who fled Europe during the 1930s and came to Hollywood to start a new life. Born in Vienna in 1914, she studied acting with the innovative theater director, Max Reinhardt. But she made the mistake of appearing nude in Ecstasy, a 1933 silent Czech film, and never quite shed the sex goddess stereotype. When Hedy died in 2000, The New York Times noted that her life had been “messy and sad.”
In her newest novel, The Only Woman in the Room (Sourcebooks Landmark, Jan 2019), Marie Benedict tells a vibrant, nuanced story about the ambitious actress. The only daughter of assimilated Jews, Hedy made a bargain with the devil by marrying an Austrian arms dealer named Fritz Mandl who would, she believed, protect her from the Nazis. But he turned out to be a brutal man and a fascist who encouraged Hitler to launch the Anschluss in 1938.
By that time, however, Hedy had fled to London where she contrived a meeting with the powerful movie producer, Louis B. Mayer. From there she proceeded to California and five more husbands and several children, and starred in films with Robert Taylor, Clark Gable, Victor Mature, and Spencer Tracy.
Hedy’s thrilling escape from Fritz might seem like the climax of the story. But when the U.S. enters the war and the Holocaust comes to dominate the news, Hedy feels anguished guilt about not sharing crucial military information that she overheard at Mandl’s dinner table back in Vienna. It is here that Benedict portrays the actress at her very best, as a co-inventor of spread-spectrum technology, which would, Hedy proposed, enable the Navy to manipulate radio frequencies and thus prevent the jamming of codes. Readers will be fascinated by Hedy’s mastery of scientific theories as well as her ingenuity and persistence, as Benedict winds up with the glamorous actress once again upon a stage before a rapt audience.
Read the Q&A with Marie, who provides more insights into her work!
Courtesy of Allison Gilbert
On 9/11, I was a television news producer for NBC New York. Dispatched to the World Trade Center, I was covered by debris when the second tower collapsed and taken to Bellevue Hospital. ER doctors cut off my clothes to assess my injuries and tubes were put down my throat to help me breathe. I thought I was pregnant. (To round out the week, my father died of cancer that Friday, September 14, 2001.)
Yet I was one of the lucky ones. I survived.
It’s with this experience that I am both honored and deeply humbled that the National September 11 Memorial & Museum has named me official narrator of its first audio tour of the primary Historical Exhibition, the only journalist and eyewitness to be so honored. My personal story is featured throughout, and my recollections are also revealed in “Witnessing History,” an overview of 9/11 and its aftermath, narrated by Robert De Niro.
The Historical Exhibition audio tour is 40 minutes long. Since the museum opened, visitors (and individuals offsite) have downloaded the Audio Guide app more than 900,000 times.
Narrating this new audio guide (listen to a sneak preview clip) was a deeply personal and profound experience. Giving voice to my memories of that day, in addition to co-writing Covering Catastrophe (and other books on grief, loss, and resilience), has helped me make meaning and purpose of tragedy.
To Schedule Allison for a speaking engagement, be in touch with us today!
Courtesy of Houstonia Magazine
Posted November 5, 2018
When Rachel Kadish published her epic and engrossing third novel, The Weight of Ink, last year, the reaction was swift and unanimous: Not only did it hit a literary nerve—it was a bonafide hit. The New York Times Book Review’s podcast called it “incredible,” while the Jerusalem Post called it “Kadish’s greatest achievement.” Publisher’s Weekly chimed in with “vivid and memorable,” and The New Republic called it “deeply moving.”
Kadish herself calls the whole experience “wild.”
“It’s been really wonderful,” she says of the attention. “This has brought me things I never expected and taken me to places I’ve never been.”
One of those places is Houston, where she hasn’t been in many years. This time, she’ll be the featured speaker for the Community Read portion of the annual Jewish Book & Arts Festival at the Evelyn R. Rubenstein Jewish Community Center on Monday, November 5. She’ll discuss the book and take questions from the audience.
The Weight of Ink tells several intertwining stories. One thread follows an academic researcher called in to look at some 300-year-old scrolls found under the stairs of a house in the London suburb of Richmond; another tracks the 17th-century scribe who wrote them. Revolving around a collection of letters and sermons that offer a glimpse into the lives of Jewish refugees from Amsterdam, The Weight of Ink tells a deftly woven story about class, education, and the deep spiritualism of Judaism.
The tome ultimately took Kadish a dozen years to complete, but she’s proud of the outcome, and equally proud to share the story of strong women.
“I stumbled upon this quote by Virginia Woolf,” she says. “It’s something like, ‘What would have happened if Shakespeare has an equally talented sister?’ Woolf’s analysis is that she’d have died young and never written a word. And I couldn’t help shadow boxing with that. Like, what would it look like for a talented, smart woman with vision and nowhere to put it in a time when women’s access to education was limited?”
That problem factors prominently in the book. Ester Velasquez is a Portuguese Jew living in London in the 1660s, a scribe for a blind rabbi and a solid thinker in her own right. When elderly professor Helen Watts and her younger assistant Aaron Levy uncover the depth of Ester’s involvement throughout their present-day research, they must grapple with questions about legacy, faith, and what we know and expect of ourselves.
“It’s such an immersive book,” says Kadish. “When I speak to people, I always want to get to the answers of why we read and write fiction—what historic value does it give to us that straight-up history often doesn’t. For me, fiction makes the world a safer place. It’s a way to see other lives and other people. So I know I am going to talk about how fiction can build bridges between us.”
That The Weight of Ink has become so beloved by critics and readers affords what Kadish feels is both an incredible opportunity and an incredible platform: to talk about issues of Judaism and about refugees. In a novel that shines light on the Jewish refugee community in 1600s London, Kadish offers parallels to refugees in today’s world.
“We need tolerance,” she says, “and I’m grateful I have a platform to talk about that. But mostly, I am just delighted that people care about my 17th-century characters that I was writing about at midnight all those years. It’s just mind-boggling and lovely.”
Courtesy of Baird Middle School
Posted November 4, 2018
In partnership with Ludlow CARES Coalition, Baird Middle School kicked off Red Ribbon Week this year with an author’s visit by New York Times best-selling author/illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka. During his talk Krosoczka spoke to students about his latest graphic novel, Hey, Kiddo; a memoir about being raised by his grandparents and growing up in a family dealing with addiction. He reflected on his childhood and adolescence, as well as sharing how art has kept him engaged and motivated throughout his life.
“Addiction crosses all boundaries -- gender, race and socioeconomic status,” said Krosoczka as he spoke to the audience. “Addiction affects students, parents, family members and friends of all ages. My hope in writing this book, Hey, Kiddo, was to help readers better understand how addiction affects all of us, and to provide an example of how to persist through difficult times by focusing on personal interests and talents.”
Like an estimated eight million children in the United States, Krosoczka told the audience that he too is the child of a parent who struggled with addiction; first speaking publicly about his mother's addiction to heroin, and being raised by his grandparents, in a widely shared 2012 TED Talk (How a boy bcame an artist).
Krosoczka is a two-time winner of the Children's Choice Book Award, an Eisner award nominee, and the author/illustrator of more than 30 books for young readers. He is best known for his Lunch Lady series and his picture books, including Punk Farm, and Star Wars Jedi Academy books.
He was also very proud to share with the audience that, Hey Kiddo, has been selected as one of the five finalists for the 2018 National Book Awards for Young People's Literature. The winner will be announced on November 14 at the 69th National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City.
Sprinkled throughout his presentation Krosoczka shared personal family photos and videos, played music from his youth, showed clips from his TED Talk, read excerpts from his book, and shared both difficult and rewarding experiences from his childhood with his “not so perfect” family. His conversation was impactful and inspiring on a multitude of levels. Keep reading…
Congrats to Kristina McMorris, who’s wonderful book, Sold on a Monday, is now a New York Times Bestseller!
The sign is a last resort. It sits on a farmhouse porch in 1931, but could be found anywhere in an era of breadlines, bank runs, and broken dreams. It could have been written by any mother facing impossible choices.
For struggling reporter Ellis Reed, the gut-wrenching scene evokes memories of his family's dark past. He snaps a photograph of the children, not meant for publication. But when it leads to his big break, the consequences are more devastating than he ever imagined.
At the paper, Lillian Palmer is haunted by her role in all that happened. She is far too familiar with the heartbreak of children deemed unwanted. As the bonds of motherhood are tested, she and Ellis must decide how much they are willing to risk to mend a fractured family.
Inspired by an actual newspaper photograph that stunned the nation, Sold on a Monday is a powerful novel of love, redemption, and the unexpected paths that bring us home.
November 2018: Books For Young People
With Thanksgiving break right around the corner, it's a great time to gather books for kids to read while off from school. We've got three amazing authors to suggest this month, who's books not only entertain, but provide inspiration, teachable moments, and important topics for further discussion around the dinner table. It's a great time to schedule Spring 2019 school visits - be in touch with us soon to arrange an event!
Courtesy of Old Dominion University
Posted Oct 2018
Written by Noell Saunders
Acclaimed novelist Imbolo Mbue impressed a packed crowd at Old Dominion University's Ted Constant Convocation Center, recounting her incredible journey from leaving her native Cameroon to attending an Ivy League university and becoming a best-selling author.
Her 2016 novel, "Behold the Dreamers," won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and was selected by Oprah Winfrey for her book club. The novel focuses on a young couple from Cameroon trying to make a new life in New York just as the Great Recession upends the economy. The novel addresses marriage, immigration, class, race, and the trap doors on the path to the American dream.
Mbue spoke at Old Dominion as part of the President's Lecture Series and annual Literary Festival.
Like her characters, Mbue was a young immigrant who struggled in her pursuit of the American dream. Long before moving to America and becoming a writer, she told the crowd, she was a little girl living in Cameroon with an unwavering curiosity.
"I was a child living a double life," she said. "I was carefree and relaxed on the outside but raging inside with a need to make sense of the world."
Mbue recalled her oceanfront hometown as a happy place where children obeyed their parents, the young obeyed the elderly, but classism was rampant, which she found perplexing. Keep Reading!
There are books for young people that hold difficult truths, and we gatekeepers — writers, parents, teachers, librarians — often find ourselves trying to sort out just what is appropriate for our kids to read about. When I was writing and illustrating “Hey, Kiddo: How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father, and Dealt with Family Addiction,” a graphic memoir aimed at readers 12 and up, I didn’t pull any punches because of one simple realization: There are difficult truths in our books because there are difficult truths in children’s lives.
For me to write this harrowing tale of my upbringing, I needed to write openly and authentically so young people dealing with similar situations would feel less alone. This included some tough scenes dealing with my mother’s opioid addiction and some less tough scenes involving my grandmother’s salty language. To offer up a watered-down account of how addiction affected me as a young person would have been disingenuous. There are, according to the two recent National Surveys on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 8.7 million children ages 17 or younger in the United States who live in a household where at least one parent has a substance-use disorder — involving drugs, alcohol or both. Those young people deserve to be seen.
I told my story from the perspective of my 17-year-old self because that is an incredibly interesting time for a person — that moment you’re about to be launched into the world on your own, just as you’re trying to sort out who you are. There are some facts that I learned about my mother in my adult life that I didn’t give to my teenage narrator — not because it would have upset the reader but because it would have dramatically altered the narrator’s relationship with his mother, thereby steering the memoir away from actual events. Read more!
Courtesy of NPR, Fresh Air with Terry Gross
Posted October 16, 2018
When author and illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka was in the fourth grade, his grandparents called him into the living room. "I remember thinking: Oh maybe we're going to go on another family vacation," he says. (The last time they called a family meeting he learned they were going to Disney World.)
But this wasn't that kind of family meeting. Krosoczka's grandparents had insisted on taking legal custody of him as a toddler — and they were about to tell him why.
"My grandfather sat me down on the couch," Krosoczka recalls. "And he said: 'It's time we tell you the truth about your mother. She's in jail and she's a drug addict and that's why she's been gone all this time.' "
Krosoczka had seen his mother only sporadically since age 2. He had never met his father.
Throughout his childhood, Krosoczka kept this painful information hidden. "I didn't tell anybody for the longest time ..." he says. "When you have these addictions in your families, you sort of live this duality. You have this thing that you hold back from people and you put your best face forward." Read more and listen to Terry Gross’s interview with Jarrett!
We couldn’t be more excited about Therese Anne’s Fowler’s beautiful new novel, A Well Behaved Woman - which hits bookstore shelves today!
The riveting novel of iron-willed Alva Vanderbilt and her illustrious family as they rule Gilded-Age New York, from the New York Times bestselling author of Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald.
Alva Smith, her southern family destitute after the Civil War, married into one of America’s great Gilded Age dynasties: the newly wealthy but socially shunned Vanderbilts. Ignored by New York’s old-money circles and determined to win respect, she designed and built nine mansions, hosted grand balls, and arranged for her daughter to marry a duke. But Alva also defied convention for women of her time, asserting power within her marriage and becoming a leader in the women's suffrage movement.
With a nod to Jane Austen and Edith Wharton, in A Well-Behaved Woman Therese Anne Fowler paints a glittering world of enormous wealth contrasted against desperate poverty, of social ambition and social scorn, of friendship and betrayal, and an unforgettable story of a remarkable woman. Meet Alva Smith Vanderbilt Belmont, living proof that history is made by those who know the rules—and how to break them.
A captivating novel based on the story of the extraordinary real-life American woman who secretly worked for the French Resistance during World War II—while playing hostess to the invading Germans at the iconic Hôtel Ritz in Paris—from the New York Times bestselling author Melanie Benjamin, of The Aviator's Wife and The Swans of Fifth Avenue.
Nothing bad can happen at the Ritz; inside its gilded walls every woman looks beautiful, every man appears witty. Favored guests like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Coco Chanel, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor walk through its famous doors, where they’re welcomed and pampered by Blanche Auzello and her husband, Claude, the director. The Auzellos are the mistress and master of the Ritz, allowing the glamor and glitz to take their mind off their troubled marriage, and off the secrets that they keep from their guests—and each other.
Until June 1940, when the German army sweeps into Paris, setting up headquarters at the Ritz. Suddenly, with the likes of Hermann Goëring moving into suites once occupied by royalty, Blanche and Claude must navigate a terrifying new reality. One that entails even more secrets. One that may destroy the tempestuous marriage between this beautiful, reckless American and her very proper Frenchman. For the falsehoods they tell to survive, and to strike a blow against their Nazi “guests,” spin a web of deceit that ensnares everything and everyone they cherish.
But one secret is shared between Blanche and Claude alone—the secret that, in the end, threatens to imperil both of their lives, and to bring down the legendary Ritz itself.
Based on true events, Mistress of the Ritz is a taut tale of suspense wrapped up in a love story for the ages, the inspiring story of a woman and a man who discover the best in each other amid the turbulence of war.
On sale, May 2019!
Courtesy of The New York Times
Posted Oct 5, 2018
The popular author-illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka has explored a lot of terrain in his inventive stories for young readers. There’s “Punk Farm” where the livestock has hidden musical talents and the school where the “Lunch Lady” serves sloppy joe’s and justice. But with his latest book, a graphic memoir, Mr. Krosoczka, 40, has mined his childhood to tell a story that is very much relevant today amid the opioid epidemic plaguing the country.
“Hey, Kiddo,” which arrives in stores on Oct. 9, (Today!) is about being raised by his grandparents in Worcester, Mass., because Mr. Krosoczka (pronounced crow-sauce-KAH) did not know his father, and his mother was battling a heroin addiction that eventually claimed her life. It is a story that the author has seen resonate with audiences at schools around the country. “There are so many kids out there whose parents do terrible things,” he said during a telephone interview while on a family vacation away from their home in western Massachusetts. “It’s important for kids to know that it doesn’t make them a bad person.”
The book, published by Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic, is aimed at a young adult audience and may sound like heavy reading, but the story is a true reflection of the seesaw of life: There are moments of hardship and conflict, but also scenes of joy. Keep Reading…