This room is 587 years old. It's where a young William Shakespeare learned Latin and Greek, and even though that was almost 450 years ago, the room looks today exactly as it did then. Surprisingly, for such a culturally significant location, it isn't open to the public — although that may be about to change.
April 08, 2014
April 01, 2014
In Ava Dellaira’s Love Letters to the Dead, Laurel is 14 years old, entering high school, and dealing with the sudden loss of her older sister, May. Given an English assignment to write a letter to a dead person, and, unsure who else to turn to, Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain. Before long, she’s filled her notebook with letters to people who aren’t here anymore-—and who went too soon. As she goes through freshman year without her sister, Laurel regularly writes to Kurt, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Judy Garland, and others, seeking to make sense of her splintering family, her first love, and her own grief.
On the face of it, I can imagine myself loving this book at 13 or 14. When I was a kid, and into my teens and even college years, my literature of choice always had a dark streak. I never went for comedies. I never picked up romance. Never read a Baby-sitters Club or a Sweet Valley High. If it wasn’t Harry Potter, it was dark (and even Potter got a bit bleak toward the end). I read books about skinheads (Skin Deep), ghosts (The Doll in the Garden), murder (When Dad Killed Mom; Monster), depression (Cut). It’s easy to see that Love Letters to the Dead would have fit in by its title alone.
March 28, 2014
*A billion husbands are about to to be replaced.
*Going on a date with someone new? Be sure to ask them about their favorite book — it can be pretty enlightening. [via the Date Report]
*Lauren Graham fans, here's some exciting news: the actress and now author is already working on the sequel to her book, Someday, Someday, Maybe. [via Reddit]
*Turns out Jane Austen is even more awesome than we thought — when she was 15, she wrote a satirical work called The History of England, which thumbs its nose at the children's schoolbooks of the day. [via Open Culture]
*As a Scot, I love this: a new app called Bookspotting tell you when you're near the location of a scene from Scottish literature. The free app pulls from approximately 3,500 books, and users can search by character, setting, place, theme, and location for recommendations. [via the BBC]
*Why do people have such a fascination with ghost stories? In a semi-secret late-night event at TED 2014, Neil Gaiman presented his theory. [recording via Brain Pickings]
*In I-wish-I-were-a-rich-person news, a letter by Gone with the Wind author Margaret Mitchell went under the hammer yesterday. In it, she discusses the casting rumors swirling around the film adaption of her book. [via GalleyCat]
*Did you know Harriet the Spy is 50 years old?? To celebrate, the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Mass., is hosting an exhibition that features original art from the book. [via GalleyCat]
*Hey, YA readers — Holly Black, author of The Spiderwick Chronicles, and Cassandra Clare, author of The Mortal Instruments, have something they want to tell you. [via the Guardian]
March 27, 2014
Thank you to everyone who entered to win a copy of Kayce Swigelson's The Grand Adventures of Petit Louis — the lucky recipient (selected by the Randomizer) is Jim in Atlanta! Congratulations, Jim!
The Grand Adventures of Petit Louis is available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble; if you haven't checked out my interview with Kayce, you can read it here.
March 19, 2014
What a great way to use a space that no one tends to think about. Being short, I do wonder how practical it is — I know I'd have no chance of reaching the shelves that are high up and closest to the wall — but it's a a clever way to maximize space. Although, on second thought, if you have a staircase like this in your property, is it likely you're going to run out of space anytime soon?
But practical issues aside — because book collecting isn't exactly practical to begin with — I'm a fan.
March 18, 2014
As promised (though it's definitely no longer last week; apologies!), I have a signed copy of The Grand Adventures of Petit Louis to give away to one lucky reader!
Interested? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, with Louis in the subject line and your name and address in the body of the email. This contest is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only. The contest closes at 11:59 p.m. this Friday, and the winner will be announced the following Monday. If you haven't read the book, check out my interview with author Kayce Swigelson here.
March 10, 2014
Kayce Swigelson is the author and illustrator of The Grand Adventures of Petit Louis, a children's book that follows a mustachioed cat around Paris as he searches for a present for his owner and adds his signature look to the city's landmarks with a flourish of his paintbrush. The book educates as it entertains by introducing readers to French culture and vocabulary as the story unfolds.
By day, Kayce teaches French and art at a private boys' school in St. Louis. She also happens to be my good friend and former college suitemate, so I am doubly thrilled to bring you this interview with her about her debut book. And check back later this week to win an autographed copy of The Grand Adventures of Petit Louis!
Booklicious: What was your inspiration for this story?
Kayce: I've had the idea for a mustache-painting little French character since 2003, but he didn't become the tower of grace known as "Petit Louis" until 2007 when I put together the first (and very poor) draft of the book. I did an overhaul in 2009.
Many forms of inspiration aligned unexpectedly, but I think it's essentially compassion for human imperfection and the mystery (and humor!) of the creative process. The simplest thing can be an inspiration. For me, it was spending time drawing mustaches on models in J. C. Penney catalogs when I was little ... I've just always loved the unexpected and the whimsical. Once the story developed, I knew that I did not want it to be just a chain of events but a relatable journey for the imperfect human being with learning at the heart of it. Petit Louis is a fine example of the unabashed vanity and pride that we all have traces of. He's a seeker like we all are, but it's a bumpy road. However, it all comes back to that mustache, which he manages to turn into his form of love.
B: When did you start thinking about writing a children's book?
K: Books were and are one of the loves of my life. Children's literature had such an effect on me and sent me into a tailspin of love for color and poetry and escape (and they still do!). I can't remember a time when I didn't just love holding and reading books, yet I wanted to be someone who produced them as well. It's an irritating tendency of mine ... I can't just watch, I have to try and do and be a part of everything, even if only behind the scenes. That old joie de vivre is inescapable when you know your passions and when you allow yourself to be as creative as you can be.
B: Which came first, the words or the illustrations?
K: I've always wondered this myself! The only way that I can describe it is that both existed concurrently in my mind as sort of a cloud or a swirl. It was just a matter of making the time to write and illustrate it (or perhaps to "translate") it into something real, readable, and touchable to match what I saw in my mind's eye ... and that takes a lot of editing and re-doing. I've ironed over the wrinkles of this work so many times I'm surprised I haven't burned it!
March 06, 2014
I'm always blown away by the creativity I find on Etsy. Just when I think I've seen it all — every reclaimed-wood bookcase, dressed-up dictionary page, and typewriter-inspired trinket out there — I stumble upon a shop like GoFollowRabbits.
Its owner, Ashley Berthiaume, designs fun clothing using quirky and unexpected prints. I especially love her use of "novel" material* — from Harry Potter to Peter Pan, Beauty and the Beast to Sherlock Holmes, her whimsical skirts run the literary gamut.
I have two especial favorites:
March 05, 2014
This unusual bookcase is the work of Dime Mexican Design. Based in Acapulco and headed by Jose Ignacio Lopez Benitez, this Etsy store specializes in minimalist design.
I like how flexible and lightweight this bookcase seems — it'd be perfect for someone who moves around a lot and needs low-fuss furniture. As the product description points out, the bookcase is ripe for customization — you could switch out the fabric with the color or material of your choice, making it a fantastically chameleonic piece. The downside is that it doesn't hold many books, but it's rather hard to find a bookcase that's both lightweight and high capacity — especially for $135, which is the price tag attached to this one.
Check out the listing or browse the rest of Dime Mexican Design's Etsy store here.
February 07, 2014
In a stroke of sheer brilliance, babyGap has released a limited-edition collection of Paddington Bear–inspired kids' clothes. I don't have a kid, but when the email announcement hit my inbox, I started drooling. Firstly, kids' clothes are adorable, and are second only to kids' shoes, which turn me into a cooing, squealing bag of lady hormones. And secondly, I'm a huge Paddington Bear fan. I had one as a kid, and I remember it so fondly that I bought one for a friend's daughter a couple of years ago. She reportedly ended up beating it against her toy stove (or was it the floor, Sarah?), so perhaps the bear from darkest Peru didn't quite capture her heart in the way it did mine. Ah well.