Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Marvels

Volume Eight in the Books That Matter Series

Brian Selznick has done it again. I first heard of his new novel, The Marvels, when I had a chance to preview an advanced copy of it in May. However, I was only able to look at the opening pictures. Then, a few months later, I had the chance to hear Brian Selznick speak about his book. It was a wonderful experience. And I can say, the book, The Marvels, lives up to its name. From the gorgeous book design to the detailed pictures and the touching story that unfolds, The Marvels is certainly a book that matters.

The book opens with a series of pictures that start in 1766. When the text begins, it opens with Joseph who is looking for his uncle in 1990. The story offered mystery and intrigue as I tried to figure out how the pictures in the beginning of the book were going to connect to Joseph and his uncle. The connection far exceeded my expectations. And even though Joseph's story takes place twenty five years ago in a house that seems to live in the past, it still seems current and important for children to read today. Joseph's uncle is battling more than what meets the eye. And as the story often says: "You either see it or you don't."

Like its predecessors, The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck, The Marvels also shows the importance of family and home. It speaks to life and legacy and the impact people can have on another. It touches on the importance of stories and how they relate to truth.

So if you check out The Marvels, also be sure to read the afterword about the actual people and places that inspired the book.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable Fib

Volume Seven in the Books That Matter Series

Up until now, I have focused on contemporary and realistic fiction as the focus for my Books That Matter Series. However, fantasy, mythology, and mystery can be just as powerful of a portal as novels set in a more realistic setting. This is the case for Adam Shaugnessy's THE ENTIRELY TRUE STORY OF THE UNBELIEVABLE FIB.

Upon reading the title, one might ask: "WHAT IS THE UNBELIEVABLE FIB?" It is the question printed on a card that eleven year old Prudence Potts has just received. On the reverse side is a message: "Be grave in your search and avoid having stones in your head." No one but Pru can see the card--except for a new boy, ABE, who moves into town after the cards arrive. As the story progresses, it soon becomes clear that in the small New England town of Middleton, nothing (and perhaps no one) is as it seems. There is a world of Norse mythology mingling with the town, a mystery is brewing, and it is up to Pru to plunge into an investigation.

But what really makes THE ENTIRELY TRUE STORY OF THE UNBELIEVABLE FIB part of my Books That Matters Series is the message behind it. Pru recently lost her father to a violent act. He was a detective and Pru is following in his footsteps by conducting investigations, including her latest Sasquatch debacle that landed her in detention with her least favorite teacher. Throughout the story, Pru must confront truths (and lies) she hasn't wanted to face. This story is just as much about grief and fear as it is about mysteries and Norse mythology. And yet, it remains playful, light, and humorous while also still addressing the seriousness of deeper issues. Often children's books turn dark and heavy to deal with such topics but Adam Shaughnessy shows readers, writers, and children that it does not have to be that way. He brings the topic to an appropriate level and deals with it in a way children would. Grief impacts children in a much different way than adults. THE ENTIRELY TRUE STORY OF THE UNBELIEVABLE FIB brings the topic to life with fantasy, mythology, and mystery--tapping into the wonderful imaginations that children so naturally have.

I met Adam seven years ago when we were both enrolled in the same picture book writing class. He hadn't written this novel yet but he was an educator who believed in bringing a world of play into classrooms and schools. Now, he has poured that belief into his book.  And to top it all off, Adam is a natural born storyteller who has a way with words. I highly recommend THE ENTIRELY TRUE STORY OF THE UNBELIEVABLE FIB to children, parents, educators, writers, and anyone who is looking for a good read.

Plus, it will answer the question that is now at the forefront of your mind: "WHAT IS THE UNBELIEVABLE FIB?"