Posted in Fantasy

My Eventbrite-Inspired Dream Author Panel

Do you guys know Eventbrite? It’s a self-service ticketing platform where you can find people and plan events all over the world. I register for my Urban Librarians Unite events through Eventbrite all the time; in the world that helps people find and plan events. Anyway, Eventbrite asked me to come up with a dream author panel – how do I do that? It’s like selecting a favorite book (or 5), THERE ARE SO MANY.

If you know me, you know that Neil Gaiman is the constant. The given. Always, just like Snape. So I had to build the panel around Neil. I had Tolkien and CS Lewis – hey, it’s my dream panel, they can Skype in from the afterlife. I considered Gail Carriger and Cherie Priest. I drove myself crazy until I settled on a group of authors whose works I love and who all gel together pretty well, with a moderator that would take this panel from awesome to incredible. I give you: The Dream Panel.

Wil Wheaton narrates and is included in Ready Player One, and he’s a sci-fi/fantasy fan who is witty, asks thoughtful questions, and is hilarious, making him a perfect moderator for this bunch.

So now that I’ve pulled this group together, I think one of the main themes of the discussion could be setting fantasy in a realistic setting. I’m awful at coming up with questions, but a few I managed to wrack my brain to come up with include:

  • We have new gods: namely, gods of entertainment and technology, in Gaiman’s American Gods. How do these new gods figure in your (Doctorow, Neuvel, Cline) worlds? Could they find a place in these worlds?
  • Can you envision your novels taking place in the same universe at the same time? What would Cory Doctorow’s Homeland Security do, or the Nameless Man from Waking Gods, if the Armada spaceships invaded one morning? Sylvain, would they get Themis up and running in time?
  • What inspires you to base your writing in the near-future or present?
  • Your books all seem to be so well-researched. Do you outline what you’re writing about and research as you go, or do you prepare beforehand? (It’s the librarian in me, I need to know!)

Who’s on your dream panel? I’d love to hear! And I’d love to hear how you create your own interview questions, because I want to get better at this!

Thanks again to Eventbrite for the inspiration for this post; now I want to plan another one, maybe even branch out into favorite characters. In the meantime, you can search for book conferences in your area by going to Eventbrite’s website; signing up is free!

Posted in Uncategorized

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Characters I Wish I Could Check in With

Tuesday is a Meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week, I’m looking at ten characters from fiction that I would like to check in with, see how they’re doing, how life’s treating them.

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Alexia and Connal from Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series. I know I’ve got the adventures of their daughter, Prudence, waiting for me on my night table, and I hope I hear more about one of my favorite couples in fiction. These two are one of the sexiest steampunk paranormal couples in the history of ever. (And if I could find out how Ivy’s doing, I would be really, really happy, too.)

Professor McGonagall in the Harry Potter series. What happened to my favorite witch when all was said and done? Did she retire, and is happily feline, laying in a sunbeam? I need to know these things.

Richard Mayhew from Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. What’s he up to these days? And what’s Door doing?

Fern from Charlotte’s Web. I’d love to know what happened to Fern as she grew up. And come to think of it, how did the rest of Wilbur’s life go, with Charlotte keeping him off the dinner table?

Claudia and Jamie from e.l. konigburg’s From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Did these two get a complimentary membership to the Met? Did they stay in New York City when they grew up? Did they ever consider holing up in the Hayden Planetarium?

Oliver in I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President. This kid has got to be dictator of some small nation by now, right?

Ponyboy from The Outsiders. I think of Ponyboy like I do the narrator in Stand By Me, a writer, looking back on his youth. What happened to him after high school? Did Daryl make him stay in school? Did he go to college? What about Sodapop and Daryl? I hope they stayed close.

The girls from St. Etheldra’s, from Julie Berry’s Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place. I hope we get more books with these girls, because I loved this one. But if we don’t, what does a group of Victorian schoolgirls do, once they’ve hidden two bodies and tried to carry on as if nothing ever happened?

Holden Caulfield, from Catcher in the Rye. Come on, aren’t you the slightest bit curious?

Gale from The Hunger Games. Please tell me he met a nice girl that wasn’t interested in a government-sponsored relationship and settled down. PLEASE.

 

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Tween Reads

Neil Gaiman’s Hansel & Gretel – A WhatchaReading Review!

I was lucky enough to review an advance copy of the upcoming Neil Gaiman/Lorenzo Mattotti graphic retelling of Hansel & Gretel for WhatchaReading. Check out my excerpt here:

I’m on a fairy tale kick these days. Call it an occupational hazard – my secret identity is that of a not-so-mild mannered children’s librarian, after all – but lately, a good fairy tale just hits the spot. I’m not talking unicorns barfing rainbows, though – I’m talking proper Grimm Fairy Tales, which is really where horror movies probably began.

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Actually, the Grimm Brothers get a lot of credit for freaky-scary fairy tales, but most fairy tales in their original aspects have some gruesome aspects to them – Cinderella’s stepsisters cut off their toes to try to wedge that glass slipper on their feet in the original tale. Puss ‘N Boots used subterfuge and murder to get his pal a castle and lands of his own. Shards from the Snow Queen’s frozen mirror pierced people’s eyes and hearts and froze them from the inside. (Both Cinderella and Puss were written by Charles Perrault, and The Snow Queen was written by Hans Christian Andersen.) Fairy tales were kind of like terrifying Aesop’s Fables back in the day; the Middle Ages parenting way of saying, “If you cross without looking both ways, you’ll get hit by a bus!” but a lot more creative.

Check out the rest of my review at WhatchaReading, and make sure to pre-order your copy today!

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, mythology, Tween Reads

Neil Gaiman’s Odd and the Frost Giants: In which Thor, Loki and Odin get into trouble AGAIN.

odd and the frost giantsOdd and the Frost Giants, by Neil Gaiman/illustrated by Brett Helquist. HarperCollins (2008), $14.99, ISBN: 978-0061671739

Recommended for ages 8-12

Neil Gaiman takes on Norse mythology with his tale of a lame young Norse boy named Odd, who encounters a bear, a fox, and an eagle in the frozen woods one day, only to discover that they are Thor, Loki, and Odin, on the run after Asgard is overrun by Frost Giants. They need Odd’s help to regain the kingdom and end the forever winter that the Frost Giants have spread throughout Midgard (and possibly, all of the realms). Is Odd smart enough to outwit the Frost Giants?

Gaiman adapts his storytelling voice for this story (as opposed to his dark fantasy voice that you can read in works like Coraline and Graveyard Book). The book is filled with his wry humor, especially in the interactions between Thor, Loki, and Odin – he gives Loki a particularly amusing voice, being the God of Mischief in the guise of a wily fox. Gaiman also excels at writing quiet, mild characters that achieve greatness through intelligence – Odd is yet another quiet Gaiman hero. Quiet kids will love how Odd uses his wits to save the day, rather than charging around Asgard swinging a war hammer and screaming for blood.

Brett Helquist’s art enhances Gaiman’s story with beautiful black and white sketches. The artwork lends a real authenticity to the Norse tale; the work could hail from a hoary, old tome, found in an old castle, it has such a wise old sense of timeliness about it.

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I love Gaiman’s storytelling, and Odd is right there with his other work. This could enhance a unit on storytelling as easily as it could a unit on Norse mythology, and there are many activities to get kids writing that this book could inspire, including a Write Your Own Myth workshop, or asking the kids to put themselves in Odd’s place – how would they save Asgard? What would they do if they discovered three gods in the woods? Do you identify with Odd? What makes a hero heroic? There are many discussion topics that work for this book.

Posted in Fantasy, Tween Reads

Book Review: Coraline, by Neil Gaiman (illus. by Dave McKean) (HarperCollins, 2002)

Recommended for ages 10+

Coraline is a dark fantasy created by author Neil Gaiman. It was adapated into a graphic novel (2009) and an animated feature (2009).

Coraline is a young girl who moves into a new home with her parents and feels out of place. Her parents don’t seem to have too much time for her, so she goes exploring and meets some of her odd new neighbors and the neighborhood cat. One night, she discovers a hidden doorway that leads to a parallel world; it’s here that she meets her “Other Mother”, who seems to have all of the time in the world for Coraline and always makes delicious meals. She desperately wants Coraline to stay, but there’s something… strange… about the Other Mother. As Coraline visits more often, she discovers that the Other Mother is not at all what she seems, and she’ll need the help of the neighborhood cat – who isn’t exactly what he seems, either – to save herself and her family. 

Neil Gaiman has been writing dark fantasy since the 1989, when he revived the DC Comics title The Sandman. He brings his creepy fantasy worlds to children as easily as he does to his older audience, and often makes some of his most unsettling characters adorable. His main characters often go against the grain, and Coraline is no exception – she is an independent, stubborn, curious girl who loves a good adventure; she’s also a smart heroine who can work her way out of a tight situation.
 
Mr. Gaiman creates memorable images with his words – visions of The Other Mother will stick with kids and adults alike and Coraline’s odd neighbors come with their own strange charm that smoothly made the transition from print to screen. His descriptions allow the reader’s imagination to run wild without ever worrying about going over the top – because there simply is no limit.
 
Coraline has won numerous awards, including the 2003 Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novella and the 2002 Bram Stoker Award for Best Work for Young Readers. Neil Gaiman’s Mouse Circus website – a Coraline reference – is geared toward his younger readers and offers information about the author, downloadable computer wallpaper, and video interviews and book trailers.