Tag Archives: Little Brown

The Diviners was SO good, I only put it down for…

…this guy:

gryff

 

And only because he is so good at looking at me with such a cute blend of sweetness and judgment.

divinersIf Libba Bray’s latest can rival my adorable puppy for my attention, you have to know that it is seriously good. I have not read something so gripping and intricately plotted for quite a while. I can honestly say that every single page held my attention, and there were many places when I stopped to reread just to enjoy Bray’s turn of phrase. I will be eagerly awaiting the next installment in the trilogy.

Set in the 1920s in New York City, The Diviners follows Ohio native, Evie, who could not be happier to be sent away to the city after an embarrassing incident in her small town. She has dreamed of the freedom and excitement of New York for as long as she can remember. She goes to stay with her Uncle Will, the curator of a museum of supernatural objects, which is fitting because Evie has an unusual gift. She is able to read people’s past experiences whenever she holds an object that belongs to them. Soon after her arrival, a series of murders rock the city, and it becomes clear that a serial killer is at large. Evie, her Uncle, and his assistant, are drawn into the investigation and it isn’t long before they realize that a terrible force of evil is only beginning its dark work.

An amazingly rich cast of characters is a big part of what makes this book so captivating. There’s Memphis, a young man who has lost the ability he once had to heal people through touch, and his brother Isaiah, who can see the future. There’s Theta, one of Ziegfeld’s chorus girls, who guards her own secrets, Sam, a pickpocket searching for his mother, and Uncle Will’s assistant, Jericho, is not what he seems. I connected to all of their stories. Bray weaves everything together so masterfully that you get just enough of each person’s story to fulfill you but still leave you curious and eager for more in the next book.

The city and the incredibly freaky old mansion where Naughty John, the serial killer, makes his lair, come off as characters in themselves, they are so richly evoked. I love a book with a strong sense of place, where you can really sink into the time and the feeling of the setting. The Diviners has this in spades.

I expect you’ll also be charmed at the way that Bray manages to get some lightness into a very dark and at times, deeply unsettling story. The dialogue is snappy, and Evie, our heroine, is so plucky and peppy that you will “pos-i-tute-ly” love her.

So unless you’ve got an 11-week-old puppy to pull you away from this book, I don’t imagine you’ll be able to do much other than keep on reading once you start The Diviners. One more thing. Don’t read it when you’re home alone. That would be a Very Bad Idea.

The Diviners is published by Little, Brown.

Scaredy Elf meets The Diviners

Folks, have you seen the book trailer for Libba Bray’s The Diviners? Well sheesh, I saw it the other day and I thought, “That is the SCARIEST book trailer I have ever seen!” followed immediately by, “I must get my elfy hands on that book, now.” I guess that is what is called effective marketing. Side note, it is no surprise that I am the sort of person who knows she has no business watching scary things on TV when she is home alone, and yet cannot resist said scary things and so ends up having to check closets and the basement and behind half-open doors before going to bed. For monsters. And/or zombies. And/or bad people.

Even writing a post about this while I am home alone is giving me goosebumps. I’m warning you. Do not watch the following trailer if you are at all inclined to get really afraid of imaginary things, or if you have a tendency to get freaky twisted nursery-rhyme type music stuck in your head, particularly at bedtime.

Thanks Libba. Thanks a lot.

(BTW, the book rocks, and it is very scary indeed. Review soon).

Day 29, book 29: The Monsters’ Monster by Patrick McDonnell

Isn’t this exciting? Two picture book reviews in one day! The Elf is on fire! It’s easy to get pumped when I’ve made it all the way to Book 29 in my 30 Days, 30 Picture Books Challenge. (I’ve saved quite the book for my big finish tomorrow, so be sure to pop by).

Today’s title soars right off the charts on the cuteness scale. What else would you expect from the mega-talented, Caldecott Honor winner Patrick McDonnell? I imagine this one will be a favourite all year round, but I couldn’t think of a better book to buy for any little one you know this Halloween.

Grouch, Grump, and little Gloom n’ Doom may be little, but they are pretty serious about being Monsters. They huff and puff and get mad about everything. They smash and crash and bash and say NO a lot. So when they come up with a plan to create the baddest monster ever, you’d expect they’d be pretty good at it. As it turns out, their Monster is the worst monster possible. He is really nice. He’s polite. He likes jelly doughnuts and sunsets. He changes their lives, but not in the way they had expected.

It’s really hard to decide what I like the most about this book. The text is full of funny moments: “Big!” little Gloom squealed. “Bad!!” little Doom squeaked. “MONSTER!!!” they all cheered together. You just want to be reading it out loud to make the most of the jokes. The images are packed with sweet humour too, like when Monster goes all over the castle gently patting the bats and rats and spiders and snakes. In between laughs, the kids might think about the power of kindness, unexpected friendship, and what it means to enjoy life’s simple pleasures. The Monsters’ Monster proves that monsters can be awfully adorable, especially the kind who share their jelly doughnuts.

The Monsters’ Monster is published by Little, Brown.

Guest Post: Malinda Lo on the making of a book trailer for ADAPTATION

It’s my pleasure to welcome Malindo Lo back to Shelf Elf. Malinda is here to give us a behind the scenes look into the creation of the book trailer for her new release, Adaptation.

Welcome Malinda!

Over the past few years, book trailers have become quite a thing in YA. I’ve never been entirely sure if they succeed in making people want to read a book, but I’ve been fascinated to see how book trailers have developed. They used to be slide shows of still photos with text — remember 2009? But recently, some book trailers have become elaborate productions with casts, crews, costumes, and very! dramatic! music!

I wasn’t initially planning to make a book trailer for Adaptation because I didn’t think I was up for such a big ordeal. However, when I saw the book trailer that author Nina LaCour shot for her novel The Disenchantments, I thought: Whoa. That is the kind of trailer I would like! So when I learned that Nina and her friend, Amanda Krampf, had launched a mini book trailer production company, Less Than Perfect Productions, I knew that I wanted to hire them to make a trailer for Adaptation. Even better? Nina and Amanda live in the San Francisco Bay Area, so we could work on this in person.

I immediately emailed Nina to see if she was up for it, and I was very excited when she and Amanda said yes. After that, I emailed my editor at Little, Brown to get her input. We talked about different concepts for the trailer, and ultimately settled on a very quick, 30-second video that would act as a teaser for the novel. The goal was not to summarize the whole book in 30 seconds, but to get viewers to want to read the book. That meant the trailer had to convey the hook of Adaptation as well as show (visually!) the mood of the novel.

While many book trailers have text crawling across the screen, I knew that I wanted to have a voiceover narrator. I took the text that is excerpted on the back cover of Adaptation and built the voiceover narration around that, because I thought it expressed the novel’s premise pretty clearly. Then, Nina, Amanda, my editor and I thought about various images that could convey some of the things that happen in the novel.

In one of the scenes in Adaptation, the main character attends a funeral at Cypress Lawn Cemetery in Colma, CA, which is just south of San Francisco. (Notable fact: Colma was founded in 1924 as a necropolis; 1.5 million people are buried there. Also, nobody is buried in San Francisco anymore — they’re all in Colma.) When I was writing Adaptation, I visited Cypress Lawn as part of my research. It has a giant, beautiful mausoleum that looks like a palace. I suggested that we film part of the trailer on location at the mausoleum, where we could shoot the main character running after a man in black within the mausoleum itself. I thought it would not only look gorgeous on film, it would look creepy, and I wanted to make sure the book’s creepy vibe came through.

Additionally, Nina arranged to have some video shot that showed other aspects of the novel: driving down a highway, some scenes in an an airport, and the main character waking up in a hospital gown. Rather than a soundtrack, Nina suggested using the sound of a human heartbeat. I liked this idea a lot because sometimes I find the music in book trailers to be too dramatic; I wanted a minimalist yet creepy (again!) vibe. Continue reading

Day 16, book 16: Nighttime Ninja by Barbara DaCosta

Nighttime Ninja, by Barbara DaCosta, illustrated by Ed Young, is a tale of late night snacking, bedtime, and ninjas. All is quiet in the house, especially the ninja, who sneaks down the hall, inching towards his treasure. He almost makes it without getting caught. Too bad Mom is on the lookout, ready for any nighttime ninja action.

DaCosta’s text is about as spare as you can get, but it’s all about conveying movement, as the ninja creeps towards his objective. At first I wondered if the text was too simple, perhaps getting lost up against Young’s dramatic and creative style. Now that I think about it, the simplicity of the text works well to create a suspenseful, quiet atmosphere while allowing the reader to fully appreciate Young’s captivating and textured illustrations. Like a ninja, this book isn’t about frills. There’s nothing wasted, nothing superfluous in the text and the art. Read this one to squirmy little ones who insist on just one more story.

The book trailer is a total charmer, very tongue-in-cheek. To all makers of picture book trailers out there, here’s my two cents: use kids. Use their cute little voices and their natural flair for drama. This is what I’m talking about:

Nighttime Ninja is published by Little, Brown.