Friday, November 4, 2011

Kids Books This Holiday--A Tip ( A Warning, Really)

Last weekend I went on an errand for the big guy in the red suit who lives at the North Pole--trying to get a jump on things. It was a book errand, the best kind.

If you are a book person, especially if you are a parent of young book lovers, here is a tip. The tip is mainly to help you keep from making yourself nuts as the big gift-giving event gets closer.

Three books are already looking to be in the lead for titles that kids will be asking for this Christmas. I learned this last weekend, with nearly ten weeks to go. I mention all of this as a public service to parents. All three of these titles are now showing as "back-ordered". This is a book industry term that essentially means that the book's publishers are having a really tough time meeting demand for the books...and in this case, the demand hasn't really heated up yet. You can still find them right now.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (2007). I want to thank my daughter's third grade teacher for recommending this one to me. The book won the 2008 Caldecott Medal. Also, come Thanksgiving, Martin Scorsese's film adaptation (I 've watched the trailer five times already) hits the big screen. Don't think that the book will be easy to find after that. I started reading this book while waiting to have a leaky tire checked out at the car shop. When the guy told me that the tire was okay, I asked him to go back and check the other three. There was nothing wrong with them, I was just really into the story and wanted to keep reading for a bit longer.

The Chronicles of Harris Burdick--14 Amazing Authors Tell the Tells by Chris Van Allsburg. Allsburg is also a Caldecott winner, and author of Jumanji, Zathura, and The Polar Express, among others. The book has an introduction by Lemony Snicket, and includes stories by authors such as Sherman Alexie, Stephen King and Lois Lowry. The book just came out in September. It will go fast. I know for a fact that, as of last weekend, Avid Bookstore in Athens, Georgia had a big stack. Avid is on Prince Avenue, just a block down from The Grit Restaurant. Make an afternoon of it.

Finally, The Legos Idea Book, from DK. It just came out in September. If you or your kids are Lego fanatics, you know what I mean. I know for an absolute fact, that two Christmases ago, I purchased the very last available copy of The Lego Star Wars Visual Dictionary to be found in North Georgia. Come Christmas morning, though, it was worth every mile I drove to find it. And how many toys, books, etc. does a six-year-old use continuosly for two years? And still looks at it regularly.

Enjoy your holidays this year. Don't make yourself crazy. Go get them now. You can read them before the kids. Also, please, no spoilers.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

The National Book Foundation, Lauren Myracle, and Book People in General

Anyone who keeps up with the book world, and especially with young adult books, recalls the enormous media hubbub last month surrounding the nomination--and then, un-nomination--of author Lauren Myracle's book, Shine for the National Book Award. I don't have anything new to add to that story. Ms. Myracle was the absolute picture of grace and class in her response to the whole mess. And the National Book Foundation, who decides the nominees and winners of the award, were justifiably raked over the coals by pretty much every media outlet and book industry publication currently in existence on Earth.

People were pretty angry about the whole thing. My own thinking is that the response had a lot to do with people's general frustration with institutions that seem to feel that "they" know what's best for everybody else, that do as they please no matter how badly they treat people, and etc. People are grumpy, generally speaking, and something like this can really set them off.

Me, for example. I sent a really ornery email to the general email address of the National Book Foundation, telling them that they all ought to take a hike, more or less. I told them that "they" were the reason that there was so much ill will toward New York and its snottiness regarding the book world. Or something along those lines.

In any event, I vented, and felt a little better. Although, again, I sent the email to the organization's general email address. I am no one of any importance, and I certainly didn't expect any kind of response from this bunch of superior know-it-alls.

So, a couple of days later I get an email from the National Book Foundation. The email isn't a form letter. And it's not simply a "Reply" to my email.

Here's the text in full.

"Dear Mr. Suttles,

Thank you for your note. When this mistake occurred, we had good intentions in trying to develop a solution that would benefit everyone concerned but in implementing it, I only made matters worse. We didn't intend to hurt anyone, and I have apologized to Lauren and I apologize to you. Please don't let one unfortunate mistake on our part sour you on an entire organization. We also do good things, and try our best. We made a mistake.


Harold Augenbraum
Executive Director
National Book Foundation"

The Executive Director sent me a response. Imagine sending an email complaint to a large company or, God forbid, an elected official. If you're lucky, you may get a form letter response six months later from the company. Any response from an elected official is likely to be written by an unpaid intern. Also, try to imagine a corporate CEO or elected official coming right out and saying that he or she made a mistake, AND the he or she actually made things worse in trying to correct that mistake. It isn't likely.

As a book person, I'm still sore at the NBF for their goof. Still, in these times when public figures will fight to the death to keep from admitting a mistake of any kind, it's good to see the book people at the NBF stepping up to the plate and at least having the courage to admit that they made an error.

Book People.

Lauren Myracle is a New York Times Bestselling author of numerous young adult titles. She is also the sister of Atlanta author Susan Rebecca White, whose books are well worth a look.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

It's Been A While

The difficult thing about having a blog (or any other social media account) and staying away for a while is that when you return there are all kinds of unfamiliar updates, features, etc. Plus, you have to look around and find where you wrote your password down because you have forgotten it. Don't we have too many numbers, passwords, etc. to remember?

The summer book season is upon us. The spring season for Georgia authors was tremendous!

Anyone care to comment about the complete upending of the book industry during the past six months as a result of ebooks finally finding some real traction, Borders' woes, and the recent bidding war for B&N?

The fishing season is here. I'm looking forward to reading John Geirach's new title, 'No Shortage of Good Days', on the subject.

It's summer in Georgia, so water will be on everyone's minds here, too.

Tomorrow is June 2, speaking of fishing. You all know what that means.

Planning on spending this book and water-filled summer with two budding bibliophiles and merpeople. And with trucks.

First field-trip of the summer: the library. And by request, too. That makes me a lucky dad. The first fishing trip (this past Memorial Day) was a bit too hot, and yielded only a handful of small bream. But, again, the fish aren't always the main reason for going fishing, anyway.

Star Wars and Fart Powder are the topics at the moment. And a rural Georgia farm boy named George Washington Perry.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

2010 Was a Busy Year For Georgia Authors

Georgia authors were all over the place in 2010. From children's books to regional interest titles to New York Times bestsellers, Georgia authors had a prolific year.

Now that the holidays and the gift giving season is here, you can show your appreciation to Georgia's writers (and to your favorite bookseller) by giving the best present of all--books.

The list below is just a sample of what Georgia authors produced in 2010 (or close enough to 2010 to count). I apologize up front for any titles that I left out that deserve to be listed. Please feel free to add them in the comments below.

I'm listing them in no particular order.

Since Christmas is just around the corner, I'll start with The 12 Days of Christmas in Georgia, which is illustrated by Georgia artist Elizabeth Delumba.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Published in 2009, the book became a national bestseller in 2010.

Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin. Another national bestseller. One of Ms. Giffin's earlier works is headed to the big screen soon.

The Fixer Upper by Mary Kay Andrews.

A Soft Place to Land by Susan Rebecca White. A personal favorite. Ms. White comes from a writing family. She is married to business author Alan Deutschman (Walk the Walk), and is the sister of New York Times bestselling young adult author, Lauren Myracle.

Back Seat Saints by New York Times bestselling author Joshilyn Jackson.

International slice and dice murder mystery sensation, Karin Slaughter knocked'em dead (again) with Broken.

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and Emory University faculty chair (and former University of Georgia cheerleader) Natasha Tretheway released Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

The Mile High Club by William Rawlings, Jr.

Fireworks Over Toccoa by Jeffrey Stepakoff.

Truckers by Mary Richardson. Another personal favorite (and actually published in late 2009). This is an artsy (in a folklore kind of way) photographic essay about the people who drive big rigs. Great interviews, and a really interesting look at a bit of Americana and business.

The Food, Folklore and Culture of Low Country Cooking by Joseph Dabney. This book is a small masterpiece. From a James Beard Award winner, this book has it all--history, recipes, and interviews with the likes of Pat Conroy and Nathalie Dupree. Also check out Joe's book on Appalachian cooking and culture.

Vince Dooley's Garden: The Horticultural Journey of a Football Coach by college football legend (and certified master gardener) Vince Dooley. Illustrated by Steve Penley, this book spans the globe.

The Triangle of Truth by syndicated columnist Lisa Earle McLeod.

Superbug by Maryn McKenna. From the author of Beating Back the Devil. If you have an interest in public health, the medical profession, science, or terrifying scenarios and the technology to fight them, this book is for you.

The South and America Since World War II from acclaimed historian James C. Cobb.

Intelligence: The Secret World of Spies--An Anthology by UGA Professor (and one of the nation's top intelligence experts) Loch Johnson.

A House of Branches by Janisse Ray. A new collection of poems by the author of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood.

Zero, Zilch, Nada by Wendy Ulmer, and illustrated by Georgia artist Laura Knorr.

Illustrator Mark Braught has two new books out this year. Baby, I'm Watching Over You is perfect for a military family with young children. And Ellen Craft's Escape From Slavery would make a nice edition to a school library. Tremendous artwork.

Remembering George Washington Perry by former Augusta newspaperman Bill Baab. I still don't know why this book hasn't made it to the New York Times bestseller list. I guess they don't fish.

The Council of Dads by Bruce Feiler. Mr. Feiler is a native Savannahian, and several times national bestselling author (Walking the Bible). He recounts his experience of learning that he might have a fatal case of cancer. He gathers up the men who will fill his shoes for his two young daughters, should he not make it. Read it.

Within Our Reach: Ending the Mental Health Crisis by former First Lady Rosalyn Carter. Put simply, this lady is an angel and a national treasure.

Bartram's Living Legacy: The Travels and the Nature of the South by Dorinda Dallmeyer.

The Flower Seeker: An Epic Poem of William Bartram by Phillip Lee Williams. The South gets its Odyssey. Phil's Civil War novel, The Campfire Boys, is the best thing since Frazier's Cold Mountain.

My Reading Life by Pat Conroy. A book for the book person on your list.

Then there are the perennial favorites. Terry Kay. James Dickey. Roy Blount. Coleman Barks. Rosemary Daniell. Augusta Trobaugh. Hollis Gillespie. Melissa Fay Greene. Ferrol Sams. And don't forget Carson McCullers, Margaret Mitchell, Flannery O'Conner, Anthony Grooms, Driving Miss Daisy, Andersonville, A Man in Full, and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

So, there you go, some shopping ideas. For more details, go visit your favorite bookseller. They need your support. Also, try visiting the website for the New Georgia Encyclopedia (author section) to really amaze yourself. The Georgia Center for the Book and the Margaret Mitchell House will be fun places this holiday, too. Again, sorry for titles and authors not mentioned. Please feel free to add them.

All the best, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, New Year & Hanukkah


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day 2010--Georgia Authors Remember our Veterans, Serving Military Personnel, and Their Families

Happy Veteran's Day!

Some months back, a Facebook friend forwarded an article to me that he had seen in the news and that pertained to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The title of the article asked, "Is America Still Fighting the War on Terror?"

My friend forwarded the article with the following comment. He said, "No. America is not fighting the war on terror. The United States Marines are. America is at the mall."

I confess that I pretty much agree with that sentiment.

Today is Veteran's Day. All else set aside, today is the day to acknowledge the sacrifice of America's former and current members of the military.....and the sacrifices of their families.

Two recent titles by Georgia authors do just that.

Dear Baby, I'm Watching Over You (just released in October) is a children's book for ages 2-8 years old. The book was written by Carol Casey, and is illustrated by the talented Georgia artist, Mark Braught. The target audience of this picture book is the young children of military personnel serving away from home.

Think about it for a moment. Or all day today.

One of Braught's illustrations has a Navy seaman looking out to sea from the deck of his ship. He's looking out over the ocean at a star filled night.

"I'm sure you wonder why I'm away for a birthday, game, or holiday."

Here are the dedications from the book:

To U.S. service men, women, and veterans, and to your families. Thank you for your patriotism and sacrifices, and for watching over all of our children. ---Carol Casey

For those that believe in, patriotically serve and sacrifice for our way of life so we may enjoy the same. Thank you. --Mark Braught

The next title is from former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, and just hit the bookshelves this fall. The book is Within Our Reach: Ending the Mental Health Crisis, and is co-written with Susan Golant and Kathryn Cade.

Mrs. Carter is an acknowledged powerhouse when it comes to mental health advocacy. Of the many topics that she discusses in her new book, she takes special pains to address the mental health needs of America's veterans and their families, and how woefully short we fall as a nation in meeting those needs. She devotes a considerable amount of the discussion to the issue of PTSD. The numbers are terrible.

Mrs. Carter sums up her message, We support our troops in the field, but it is critical that we continue to support them when they come home.

There is an interesting parallel to be drawn here. Like terrorism, mental illness is a heartless, indiscriminate, destructive force. And Mrs. Carter is the equivalent of an Army Ranger.

Remember your veterans today, and their families.

Postscript: To Specialist Castro. If you see this, here's wishing you and your comrades a safe and speedy return home to your families. We look forward to your return, as your father will be moving to the minors next season and our daughter is in need of a quality softball coach.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Prince of Tides, the Mother of All Fish, and Erk's Eagles

October is here and, finally, tolerable weather has returned to north Georgia. October is also prime book month in Georgia (fall and spring being the best book seasons, in general). Below are several noteworthy events, of many (Billy Collins was just at Georgia Tech):

Pat Conroy and Cassandra King

On Wednesday, October 6, authors Pat Conroy and Cassandra King will be giving a reading at the Clarkston Campus of Georgia Perimeter College at 7:15 p.m. The event is taking place at the Cole Fine Arts Building, located at 555 North Indian Creek Road. For more information, call the GPC Writer's Institute at 678.891.3275.

Pat Conroy (native Georgian) is the phenomenolly popular author of novels such as The Prince of Tides, The Great Santinni, and The Lords of Discipline. His most recent novel, South of Broad, came out last year. He is also the author of several autobiographical works, including his forthcoming book about his life in books.

Cassandra King is the author of multiple bestsellers, including The Sunday Wife.

Go Fish Center to Open in Perry, Georgia

On Thursday, October 7, the State of Georgia will be dedicating the new Georgia Go Fish Center, which will be next to the Georgia State Fairgrounds in Perry. The Center will open to the public on the following day. The Center will be devoted to all things fishing in Georgia, and is part of Governor Perdue's Go Fish Georgia initiative. A lot of people grumbled about the money to build the Center and fund the initiative, especially in these tight fiscal times. Heaven forbid that we do something to encourage people in Georgia (where one in five adults, and one in four children, are considered obese) to get outside. As an economic driver, one of the recent Go Fish-connected fishing tournaments brought $23.2 million to the Lake Lanier area and Gwinnett County.

One of the dignitaries who will be on hand at the Go Fish Center dedication will be Bill Babb, Georgia author, former Augusta newspaperman, and the world's leading authority on George Washington Perry.

I am certain that all of you are aware that George Washington Perry was the young Georgia farmboy who, in the summer of 1932, took a day off from field work to go fishing with a friend. He caught a largemouth bass that, turns out, was (and still is) the world record holder in terms of weight. That's how an international, multi-billion dollar industry got started. Not to mention the great stories, etc. And Perry went on to become a self-made man, and local legend.

Bill Babb's book, Remembering George Washington Perry, came out last year. You'll be able to pick up a copy at the Center.

2010 Georgia Literary Festival

Presented each year by the Georgia Center for the Book, this year's Georgia Literary Festival will be held on October 3rd on the campus of Geogia Southern University (WOOOOO! GO EAGLES!!) in Statesboro, Georgia.

Among the 25 authors scheduled to speak and autograph books will be Ferrol Sams, Max Cleland, Natasha Tretheway, Phillip Lee Williams, Tina Ansa, Damon Lee Fowler, Walter Reeves, and David Bottoms. And it's all free.

For more information about this year's Georgia Literary Festival, contact the Georgia Center for the Book at 404.370.8450 x 2225.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Illustrator Laura Knorr at the Suwanee Festival of Books

Zero, Zilch, Nada--Counting to None by Wendy Ulmer (and illustrated by Laura Knorr) tells the story of Harry, a senior accountant in the Congressional Budget Office who decides to leave public service to become a financial planner for a giant corporate mortgage lending firm, and the hilarious mayhem that results.

Not really.

Actually, Zero, Zilch, Nada is the latest title from Sleeping Bear Press to be illustrated by award-winning Georgia artist Laura Knorr. The book just hit the shelves earlier this summer.

The story involves one Harry, a rabbit who just loves, loves, loves balloons. Harry gets a new job in a balloon factory, and things get a little out of control. In the meantime, the intended audience for the book (ages K-2ND Grades) are learning about sets and counting by multiples of ten, five, two, etc.

It's a fun book for little aspiring math whizzes, and the artwork is terrific. But, don't take my word for it. For this book review, I called in an expert. I asked my seven-year-old daughter to read it and offer her thoughts. She insisted upon rewriting the whole story (critics!), but then did finally submit a few written answers to questions from her old man:

GBAW: Why did you like this book?

RS: It was so silly. Because he was supposed to blow up 100 balloons, but instead he popped 100 balloons.

GBAW: Who was your favorite character?

RS: Everyone (besides Harry, there are bears, beavers, raccoons, chipmunks, moose and other assorted factory workers and members of management).

GBAW: What was your favorite part of the story?

RS: Boo Hoo! None left!

GBAW: Any closing comments about the book?

RS: It is educational (egecasional) by helping your child counting back from 100 to 0. It is a great (graet) book. Buy (bye) it from Laura Knorr.

GBAW: Good. Finally, can you say why a baby brother or baby sister might like it?

RS: I think they would laugh about it too. In fact they would laugh so hard their heads would blow off.

GBAW: There you go.

Laura Knorr will be appearing at the Suwanee Festival of Books on August 28-29. For more information about the festival, visit the website at

For a complete list of books illustrated by Laura Knorr, and to view more of her wonderful artwork, visit her website at