FALL READS AND NEWS

A child of the fall I always look forward to its early signs, which can be subtle and easily missed.

And yet, after a hot summer in so many parts of the world and in the United States, temperatures are dropping, at least in the early and late hours of the day.

Squirrels scurry all over parks.

Pumpkins patches appear, colorful pop-up shops.

Scarecrows move on people’s porches.

At yoga yesterday, our instructor ended practice with these words:

“As trees are starting to shed their dry leaves, we are also offered the possibility to shed what has died inside us. Fall is the season to let go.”

Always easier said than done, right?

And yet, the words stayed inside me all day long. I even forwarded them to one of my daughters, who like me, loves words.

Like wild animals, trees, and plants get ready for shorter, darker days I surround myself with more books than ever.

My recent favorite reads:

 

FOR CHILDREN:

Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn written and illustrated by Kenard Pak

A lovely hymn to my favorite season, a true Picture Book with sparse words that leaves ample room to illustrations.

“Hello! Now that the cool winds have come

We love how our branches sway in the sun.”

What I love most about this Picture Book:

The illustrations that carry so well the quietness of this time of the year. I could see the colors of fall, but also smell, taste, touch, and hear the season as I turned the pages.

Kenard Pak lives, writes, and draws in San Francisco.

 

Mary Blair’s Unique Flair: the Girl Who Became one of the Disney Legends written by Amy Novesky, illustrated by Brittney Lee

Early on, Mary Blair loved color and wanted to be an artist. But her dream was hard to realize. Mary’s parents didn’t have much money so it wasn’t easy to provide her the material she needed. Yet, they did their best to give her paper and paints. Mary worked a lot to enter The Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles in the mid 1930s. And when she found a job at the Walt Disney Studios she had to work as hard to be accepted in the male-dominated industry. But Walt Disney loved Mary’s colorful art and offered her to join him to South America. There, Mary fell for the colors and incorporated some in her concept art for Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan, and even the It’s a Small World attraction at Disneyland.

What I love most about this bio Picture Book:

Mary’s natural love for color, her tenacity and her determination when it came to art.

The illustrations that support Mary’s unusual and inspiring story explode with colors and Mary’s love for them.

 

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré written by Anika Aldamuy Denise, illustrated by Paola Escobar

This Picture Book is a vivid homage to the storyteller, puppeteer and New York City’s first Puerto Rican librarian.

Like many immigrants Belpré found a home at the New York Public Library when she arrived to the USA in 1921. There, she worked as a bilingual assistant and turned her popular retellings into books. A librarian and a writer who served her Spanish speaking community Pura Belpré left a legacy that still speaks volumes today.

What I love most about this bio Picture Book:

I’ve spent countless hours in libraries in my native France and in the United States, whether where my family has lived or for occasional visits when we travel. Libraries are often a second home for readers but also for people who seek quietness and shelter. Librarians are the hosts and this book celebrates one of the most unusual and legendary.

The balance between the lyrical writing and the vibrant illustrations is pitch-perfect.

The few words in Spanish here and there remind us of the importance of language for all human beings.

 

FOR TEENS:

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

 

When it appears very clear that Mara’s twin brother has raped his girlfriend, also Mara’s friend, Mara is caught between her family, her own sense of right and wrong and also the need to address a suppressed trauma.

Told from the perspective of seventeen-year-old Mara who has never told anyone about going through sexual assault on her last day of eighth grade, this empathetic novel treats of the difficult themes of consent, victim blaming, and sexual assault and opens the door to very important questions about truth, feminism, friendship, and family loyalty.

What I love most about this YA novel:

The story is very nuanced. In this era of he-said, she-said, and black and white opinions the author leaves plenty of room to questions.

She also opted for an untypical ending. Nothing is clearly solved by the end of the book. The characters are forever changed and yet we leave them with the certainty that they will be able to move on.

The main protagonist is a girl, but the novel is definitely also written with boys in mind. I hope many will read it.

Ashley Herring Blake lives in Nashville, Tennessee, home to the lovely bookstore Parnassus, owned and run by award-winning author Ann Patchett.

 

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone, including her former girlfriend Mabel, since she left San Francisco secretly and abruptly.

Now, months later, on the other side of the country, Marin is waiting, alone on a deserted school campus for winter break, for Mabel’s visit.

Over the course of a few short days Marin will face the necessity to open up and tell Mabel of the tragedy she left behind when she fled California.

What I love most about this YA novel:

The settings, both San Francisco and upstate New York, are impeccably rendered. The author shows us Marine’s emotions unfolding through the eerie San Francisco fog and the snow packed New York state winter. Brilliant.

She also managed to write short (230 pages is rare in YA). Her voice is quiet and yet the story is packed with intense feelings related to death, loss, grief, and love.

The fact that Mabel has been forced to move on after Marin left her without any warning and is now in a relationship with a boy is well described. While initially hurt Marin is now clear about her sexual orientation and the book ends with the promise that she will meet other girls and fall in love again.

Marin’s complex relationship with her grandfather, the man who raised her, now dead, is beautifully shown, too.

The gorgeous language, full of imageries, is comparable to an art piece.

LaCour is one of the most respected authors in contemporary Young Adult literature. She is the recipient of the 2018 prestigious Michael L. Printz Award for We Are Okay.

She lives in Martinez, a small town in the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST:

From my agent’s desk:

* “Plenty of editors are reading and excited about your project.”

* “Your lyrical writing always brings me so much joy.”

From my writing desk:

* I’m filled with hope when I read this, of course.

* Having an agent is still a bit unreal for me, even though Laurel and I are in frequent touch. I am always looking forward to her weekly email and shorter lines in between. She’s an amazing editor (she was one before being an agent) and her comments, compliments, and requests for changes on my manuscripts make me a better writer. Some of the publishing houses she selected for my book are not open to unsolicited submissions and often closed to un-agented writers. So, even though we’ve now reached six months since we started the submission process and that it seems an eternity, where would my manuscript be without someone who has my back? I stick to Laurel’s optimistic words and keep my fingers crossed.

* I wrote, revised, and polished my next two manuscripts, one being another bio Picture Book and the other one a fiction Picture Book. Laurel is as enthusiastic and supportive of them as she was when she signed me on my first manuscript.

* Updates will follow. Meanwhile, I work on a new project. Of course 🙂

 

 

Wherever You Live I Wish Each and Every One of You a Glorious Fall Season.

 

P.S. Halloween is not my favorite holiday, but when young trick-or-treaters ring my bell on Halloween night I’m always ready. So when I saw this bag of Gummy candies with a sale tag that read “Limited Quantities,” I didn’t think twice.

 

Individual small packages hold tiny, soft gummies that come in all sorts of classic Halloween shapes. Absolutely perfect for little trick-or-treaters. Above all, those gummies are irresistibly delicious.

Don’t ask me how I know.

%d bloggers like this: