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January 2006 Newsletter January 2006
This Month on

Awards, Contests and Manga - Oh My!

Author Talk: Louis Sachar, Author of SMALL STEPS Talks to David Levithan, Author of MARLY'S GHOST

Now in Stores: AVALON HIGH by Meg Cabot

New on --- Manga!

Oprah's Book Club Selection and Essay Contest

The Michael L. Printz Award

The Robert F. Sibert Award and The Coretta Scott King Award

The Alex Awards and The Margaret A. Edwards Award

The Schneider Family Book Award

Cool New Books for January

This Month's Reviews
Poll: Authors On Your iPod
Question of the Month: Author Interviews Online
Word of Mouth: Tell Us What You're Reading and You Could Win a Book
Links You'll Love
Word of Mouth
Question of the Month
Over 1,800 reading guides

Awards, Contests and Manga - Oh My!

This month, we aren't sure what to be most excited about at --- the announcement of the ALA's award-winning books of the year, the announcement of Oprah's newest Book Club selection and her essay contest JUST for teens, or the launch of our new Manga Feature. It's ALL so exciting!

Everyone's been buzzing about Manga, and now has joined in on the excitement. We now have a section on our site and in the newsletter devoted specifically to Manga titles! These reviews are coming to us from a terrific website called For more reviews of manga and graphic novels, please be sure to check this site out!

We have two fantastic and revealing interviews running on the site. Louis Sachar discusses some of the details of SMALL STEPS, his follow-up novel to HOLES, and describes his writing routine. Also, reviewer Brian Farrey talked to David Levithan, author of MARLY'S GHOST, who let us in on how he connects themes of isolation and hope and what's on his "I wish I'd written that" list.

All your favorite authors are featured on, including Meg Cabot, whose newest book, AVALON HIGH, is flying off shelves since it came out December 27th.

With all this news we think we have given you ammo to kick winter doldrums away. Happy reading!

Carol Fitzgerald (

Author Talk: Louis Sachar, Author of SMALL STEPS

Louis Sachar's SMALL STEPS chronicles life after Camp Green Lake for Theodore "Armpit" Johnson, one of the former occupants of Tent D from the Newbery Award-winning book HOLES. In this interview, Sachar explains why he chose to focus his highly anticipated novel on this particular character over all the others. He also describes his rather slow writing process and reveals how his life has (or hasn't) changed as a result of the success of HOLES.

SMALL STEPS by Louis Sachar (Fiction)
In this long-awaited companion to Louis Sachar's award-winning HOLES, two former inmates of the horrific juvenile detention center Camp Green Lake --- Armpit (aka Theodore Johnson) and X-Ray --- take small steps to regain their reputation, and self-respect, in the real world. Reviewed by Norah Piehl.

-Click here to read an excerpt from SMALL STEPS.

Click here to read an interview with Louis Sachar and a review of SMALL STEPS. Talks to David Levithan, Author of MARLY'S GHOST contributing writer Brian Farrey interviewed David Levithan, author of BOY MEETS BOY, THE REALM OF POSSIBILITY, ARE WE THERE YET? and the newly released MARLY'S GHOST. Levithan talks about two seemingly opposing themes of his novels --- hope and isolation --- and describes the fundamental role of music in his writing process. He also discusses his membership in an important group called AS IF and underscores the improbability of publishing sequels to his previous books.

MARLY'S GHOST by David Levithan (Fiction)
Following the tragic death of his girlfriend Marly, Ben descends into a deep depression and turns away from love. But in this remix of Charles Dickens's A CHRISTMAS CAROL, Marly and several other ghosts come back to haunt Ben on Valentine's Day. Reviewed by Brian Farrey.

-Click here to read an excerpt from MARLY'S GHOST.

Click here to read our interview with David Levithan and a review of MARLY'S GHOST.


Now in Stores: AVALON HIGH by Meg Cabot

AVALON HIGH by Meg Cabot (Fiction)
Avalon High seems like a typical high school, attended by typical students. But not everybody is who they appear to be --- not even new student Ellie, as she is about to discover for herself. The Legend of King Arthur is given a teenage twist in Meg Cabot's new stand-alone novel. Reviewed by Belinda Williams.

-Click here to read an excerpt from AVALON HIGH.


Click here to read a review of AVALON HIGH.


New on --- Manga!

Welcome to's new Japanese manga section! Japanese manga, or Japanese print comics, are fast becoming the most popular comics for teens. Full of wacky humor, intense action, blossoming romance and true observations on everyday life, manga covers every kind of genre and taste. Manga tells their stories in their own unique combination of text, images and symbols (half the fun is figuring it all out). Aside from the stereotypical giant robots and cute schoolgirls, you'll find everyone from stealth government agents to spacy classical musicians to historical legends brought to life in these titles.

The reviews we will be posting are courtesy of the graphic novel review website for teens No Flying No Tights. We will be updating this feature every month with new manga reviews, so be sure to check back to see what's new!

CANTARELLA, Volume 1 by You Higuri (Go Comi Manga, 2005)
CANTARELLA embellishes history and brings to life the treacherous world of power, politics, wealth, and family in 15th century Italy. Cesare Borgia is determined to redirect his own fate. Can he outwit the conspirators, assassins, his own father, and threatening spirits that plague him? Reviewed by Robin Brenner.

COUPLE, Volume 1 by Jae Sung Park (Central Park Media, 2004)
A bachelor's life is great --- plenty of space, no need to clean up, dried ramen noodles, and no responsibilities. That's until a cute freshman girl collapses on your doorstep with a high fever, no money, and no place to go. Reviewed by Alison Kotin.

INSTANT TEEN, Volume 1 by Haruka Fukushima (Tokyopop, 2004)
Most little girls want to grow up far faster than their bodies do. Many women today remember a private incident of bra-stuffing to mimic womanly curves and a grown-up style. Ah, the perils of getting what you wish for! Reviewed by Robin Brenner.

OFF*BEAT by Jen Lee Quick (Tokyopop, 2005)
Tory is more than a little obsessed by his silent, private new neighbor Colin. Something suspicious is going on next door. Maybe Tory shouldn't poke his nose in where it doesn't belong, but like any researcher he can't let it go until he finds the truth. Reviewed by Robin Brenner.

MUSASHI #9 by Takahashi Miyuki (CMX Manga, 2005)
When the FBI, MI-5, the CIA (and other acronyms as well!) find themselves about to buckle, shadow organization Ultimate Blue will restore balance. Their top agent, Musashi #9, is ruthless, cunning and without fear. She is also 19. Reviewed by Robin Brenner.

NODAME CANTABILE, Volume 1 by Tomoko Ninomiya (Del Rey, 2005)
Shinichi wants to become a conductor. Nodame is a slob, a scatterbrain, and more interested in food than her music, but she's an incredibly talented pianist. Anybody hear a duet? Reviewed by Robin Brenner.

WILD COM by Yumi Tamura (Viz, 2004)
Three short stories about topics as varied as controlling fire, love, and the dangers of vanity are highlighted by dramatic art, taut suspense, and creepy imagery. No matter how you may deny your fate, everyone must reap what they sow. Reviewed by Jack Kotin.

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Oprah's Book Club Selection and Essay Contest

On we have added guides for the books in Elie Wiesel's classic The Night Trilogy --- the novels DAWN and DAY, and the first in the series, NIGHT, an autobiographical account of Wiesel's survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps. NIGHT is Oprah's latest book club pick, and she has launched an essay contest about this poignant memoir that is open to high school students across America. Fifty winners will be flown to Chicago, where her show is based, for a taping with the author! Read more about this special contest on


Click here to read all the details about Oprah's Essay Contest.


The Michael L. Printz Award

2000 marked the debut of the Michael L. Printz Award, which was established to recognize a book that "exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature," according to the Young Adult Library Services Association division of the American Library Association. The Award is named for Michael L. Printz, a former school librarian at Topeka West High School in Kansas. Throughout his career he was a respected colleague and teacher, and an active and dedicated member of YALSA. He passed away in 1996. The Printz winner and up to four honor books (or runners up) are chosen annually by a committee of nine YALSA members.

-This year's winner is LOOKING FOR ALASKA by John Green.

Click here to read more about the Michael L. Printz Award.


The Robert F. Sibert Award and The Coretta Scott King Award

The Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award, established by the Association for Library Service to Children in 2001, is awarded annually to the author of the most distinguished informational book published in English during the preceding year. The award is named in honor of Robert F. Sibert, the long-time President of Bound to Stay Bound Books, Inc. of Jacksonville, Illinois, and is sponsored by the company.

The Coretta Scott King Book Award is given to an African American author and an African American illustrator for an outstandingly inspirational and educational contribution. The books promote understanding and appreciation of the culture of all peoples and their contribution to the realization of the American dream. The Award is further designed to commemorate the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to honor Mrs. Coretta Scott King for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood.


-This year's winner of the Robert F. Sibert Award is SECRETS OF A CIVIL WAR SUBMARINE: Solving the Mysteries of the H.L. Hunley by Sally M. Walker.

-Click here to read more about the Robert F. Sibert Award.

-This year's winner of the Coretta Scott King Award is DAY OF TEARS: A Novel in Dialogue by Julius Lester.

-Click here to read more about the Coretta Scott King Award.


The Alex Awards and The Margaret A. Edwards Award

The Alex Awards were created to recognize that many teens enjoy and often prefer books written for adults, and to assist librarians in recommending adult books that appeal to teens. The award is named in honor of the late Margaret Alexander Edwards. Nicknamed "Alex," this young adult specialist at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Maryland firmly believed that adult books are as beneficial toward enhancing and enriching the minds of young adults as designated "teen books" are.

-Click here to see this year's winners of the Alex Awards.

The Margaret A. Edwards Award, established in 1988, honors an author's lifetime achievement for writing books that have been popular over a period of time. It recognizes an author's work in helping adolescents become aware of themselves and addressing questions about their role and importance in relationships, society, and in the world.

-This year's winner of the Margaret A. Edwards Award is Jacqueline Woodson, author of novels such as BEHIND YOU, THE HOUSE YOU PASS ON THE WAY, IF YOU COME SOFTLY and LENA.

-Click here to read more about the Margaret A. Edwards Award.


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The Schneider Family Book Award

The Schneider Family Book Award, donated by Katherine Schneider, Ph.D., honors an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences. The book must portray some aspect of living with a disability or that of a friend or family member, whether the disability is physical, mental or emotional. Recipients are selected in three categories: birth through grade school (ages 0-10), middle school (ages 11-13), and teens (ages 13-18).

-This year's winner of the Schneider Family Teen Award is UNDER THE WOLF, UNDER THE DOG by Adam Rapp.

Click here to read more about the Schneider Family Book Award.

Cool New Books for January

January's roundup of cool new books features three titles whose authors consistently have been a huge hit with young readers. One of the most anticipated releases of the year is SMALL STEPS, Louis Sachar's follow-up to his 1998 bestseller HOLES. Armpit (aka Theodore Johnson) is now home in Austin, Texas, and trying to turn his life around after his release from Camp Green Lake. Meg Cabot's latest effort is AVALON HIGH, a stand-alone novel in which the legend of King Arthur and Sir Lancelot comes to life --- in a suburban high school. And David Levithan, who has written the ALA Best Books for Young Adults BOY MEETS BOY and THE REALM OF POSSIBILITY, returns with MARLY'S GHOST, a compelling tale about loss and a modern twist on Dickens's A CHRISTMAS CAROL.
Click here to read our Cool New Books feature.
This Month's Reviews



THE SPACE BETWEEN US by Thrity Umrigar (Fiction)
In this richly textured and engrossing novel, Thrity Umrigar explores the relationship between two women whose connection transcends their place at opposite ends of the social spectrum of modern-day Bombay. Weaving between past and present, Umrigar reveals their shared struggles, their solitary hardships and the secrets that threaten to destroy them both. Reviewed by Jennifer Krieger and excerpted.

THE CANNIBALS by Iain Lawrence (Fiction/Action & Adventure)
In the style of the great classical adventure writers, Iain Lawrence has penned this sequel to his 2005 novel THE CONVICTS, providing readers with a non-stop, high seas tale full of twists, turns and fate. Reviewed by Joy Held.

SIGN OF THE RAVEN by Julie Hearn (Historical Fiction)
Following the success of THE MINISTER'S DAUGHTER in 2005, Julie Hearn offers another dark but compelling historical novel, this time a time-travel fantasy that exposes the dark underbelly of eighteenth-century England. Reviewed by Norah Piehl.

ITHAKA by Adèle Geras (Historical Fiction/Fantasy)
Adèle Geras's follow-up to her 2001 novel TROY is a creative retelling of THE ODYSSEY from the point of view of the women who wait for Odysseus's return from the Trojan War. Reviewed by Sarah A. Wood.

Rx by Tracy Lynn (Fiction)
Thyme Gilcrest is a model student with an excellent reputation --- but that is about to change. This upper-middle class teen walks a very fine line, or straddles a pretty wobbly one, depending upon your point of view. Thyme is not your average drug dealer. Reviewed by Carole Turner.

BLACKTHORN WINTER by Kathryn Reiss (Mystery)
Everyone believes that local bad boy Simon Jukes killed Liza Pethering --- everyone that is except 15-year-old Juliana Martin-Drake. Can Juliana find the real murderer and convince the authorities to believe her, or will she end up as the killer's next victim? Reviewed by Paula Jolin.

ACCIDENTAL LOVE by Gary Soto (Fiction)
It all starts when Marisa picks up the wrong cell phone. When she goes to return it, she feels something she's never felt before, something a bit like --- love. But hot-tempered Marisa and geeky Rene aren't exactly a match made in heaven. So why can't Marisa stay away from him? Reviewed by Melissa A. Palmer.

FREAKS: ALIVE, ON THE INSIDE! by Annette Curtis Klause (Fiction)
Abel Dandy feels all alone, a normal teenager who lives in Faeryland, where his parents perform with other "human oddities." Determined to seek adventure and find the girl of his dreams, Abel runs away from home. But the world outside Faeryland isn't exactly what he had envisioned it to be. Reviewed by Kristi Olson.

PRETTY LITTLE DEVILS by Nancy Holder (Fiction)
Hazel Stone wants nothing more than to be a part of the Pretty Little Devils, the most popular group at Brookhaven High School. They're cooler than the cheerleaders and always seem to have fun. But will she have to pay a price once she becomes a member? Reviewed by Hannah Gomez.

CRUNCH TIME by Mariah Fredericks (Fiction)
"Crunch Time" is an apt title for a story of four high school juniors feeling pressured by parents, counselors and peers to ace the SAT. The clock is ticking for Max, Daisy, Leo and Jane, unlikely friends who bond over cookies and SAT practice exams. Reviewed by Renee Kirchner.

YOUR EYES IN STARS by M. E. Kerr (Historical Fiction)
Jessica and Elisa become best friends soon after Elisa moves into the neighborhood. But then one day, a young convict housed in the same prison where Jessie's father serves as the warden starts off a series of events that may force Jessie and Elisa apart. Reviewed by Chris Shanley Dillman.

ALL RIVERS FLOW TO THE SEA by Alison McGhee (Fiction)
After a terrible car accident in the Adirondacks leaves her older sister Ivy in a coma, Rose Latham struggles with her grief --- and the fact that her mom won't even step foot in the hospital --- as she tries to move on with her life. Reviewed by Sarah Sawtelle.

OPEN ICE by Pat Hughes (Fiction)
Nick Taglio's entire identity is wrapped up in ice hockey. He owns the ice and has for as long as he can remember. When a severe head injury threatens his ability to play the game, he thinks his life is over. Reviewed by Renee Kirchner.

Read this month's reviews here.
Poll: Authors On Your iPod

Do you own an iPod or an MP3 player?
Would you like to listen to podcasts of author interviews or authors talking about their books?

Yes, I would be interested in this.
I do not have an iPod or MP3 player, but I would be interested in this.
I do not have an iPod or MP3 player, but if I did, I would not want to use it to listen to author interviews.
I don't know what a podcast is.
I don't know what a podcast is, but I've heard about them and I'm curious about them.
No, I would not be interested in this.

Would you be interested in receiving news about book releases of your favorite authors via text messages on your cell phone?

Yes, I think text messages would be a fun and easy way to stay on top of what my favorite authors are doing.
No, I think text messages would be annoying and/or unnecessary.
I do not have a cell phone, but I would be interested in this.
I do not have a cell phone, but if I did, I would not want to receive book news via text messages.
I am not sure how I feel about this.

Where did you find out about the book you currently are reading?

Read a review on
Read a review someplace else online
Read a review someplace offline --- in a magazine or newspaper
A friend or family member
A local bookseller
A librarian
Browsing in a bookstore or library
None of the above
I cannot remember where I heard about it.

Click here to participate in the poll.
Question of the Month: Author Interviews Online

Name up to five authors you would like to hear give online audio interviews.

Post your reply to our Question here.
Word of Mouth: Tell Us What You're Reading and You Could Win a Book

This contest period, one teen reader will be randomly chosen to win a copy of SMALL STEPS by Louis Sachar. (Click on the link below for the official rules) To automatically enter to win, e-mail us your recommendations and book ratings.


Post your Word of Mouth comments here.

Have a great month...and make some time each day to read something you enjoy!

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--- Carol Fitzgerald for