World Book Day falls on the 1st of March every year. It’s a time to celebrate children’s literature and reading for pleasure in general. It’s a big deal here in the UK, with schools across the country taking part in a wide variety of activities.
Here are five programs that I have found success with in the High School Library that I manage:
Dress Up as a Book Character
This one is by far the most popular activity to do during World Book Day. It’s the one of the rare times in the year that students can come to school not in their required uniform. We have a massive costume contest for students and staff with big prizes like Kindles and stacks of books and gift cards. If you drum up a lot of excitement around it you can potentially get hundreds of people coming to the school dressed as their favourite book character.
Have Themed Events
In 2017 we attached a theme to World Book Day for the first time ever. The theme was Roald Dahl vs. Harry Potter. Two of the most popular series of books ever. To celebrate it, we had themed events. By far our most popular event was Quidditch Ping Pong. It essentially works like beer pong except the cups are empty and the students need to bounce the balls through homemade Quidditch rings. Instructions on how to make the event a success are in the link above.
World Book Day always has great competitions surrounding displays and a great display makes students and staff excited about upcoming events. Last year we built up excitement around the event by having a series of Book Tasting lessons that lead to genre displays for each of the four Houses that our school is divided into. Getting students involved in display making is amazing way to make connections and put your library on the map.
Have an Author Visit
Yes it costs money. However, having an author visit your Library for World Book Day or any day will create a great experience for students.. To save cash, book a Skype visit, most authors will do these for free. We have a series of Skypes set up during the week of World Book Day plus an in-person author visit for an entire year group. They are a vital part of any vibrant School Library and I think you should try to bring in as many as humanly possible.
Host a ComicCon
I’ve talked before about how to make your ComicCon a success. Running your own ComicCon will attract those students who don’t naturally gravitate towards traditional literature. Plus, they are a lot of fun. In 2017 I found out that one of our staff members’ partner was a voice over artist for tons of anime shows. I asked if he’d come to the Library to speak to the students for 30 minutes, he spent an hour there for free blowing their minds with his vocal abilities. Have crafts, snacks and games and it will bring the students into the Library in droves.
I’d love to hear how any other librarians out there are celebrating World Book Day!
The eleven stories in Will Mackin’s mesmerizing debut collection draw from his many deployments with a special operations task force in Iraq and Afghanistan. They began as notes he jotted on the inside of his forearm in grease pencil and, later, as bullet points on the torn-off flap of an MRE kit. Years later, he used those journals to write this book. Told without a trace of false bravado and with a keen sense of the absurd, Bring Out the Dog manages to capture the tragedy and heroism, the degradation and exultation, in the smallest details of war.
We have 10 copies of Bring Out the Dog by Will Mackin to give away to 10 Riot readers! Just complete the form below to enter. Entries are open to residents of the United States (excluding Puerto Rico and all other US territories) and will be accepted until 11:44:59 pm, February 24, 2018. Winner will be randomly selected. Complete rules and eligibility requirements available here.
BRING OUT THE DOG Giveaway - February 2018
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Who knew that an in-depth biography about one of America’s Founding Fathers would lead to a smash hit Broadway musical. I’m of course referring to Walter Isaacson’s Benjamin Franklin (1).
I’m clearly talking about Hamilton, transformed from Ron Chernow 800 page biography into its own revolution by the incomparable Lin Manuel Miranda. We’ve been lucky enough to have a number of really wonderful musicals based on great books: Wicked, Fun Home, The Color Purple (of which just the soundtrack will bring you to tears). But that doesn’t mean Broadway should pick up every book off the shelf and magically turn it into this season’s hit. There are some excellent books that would make bad musicals for one reason or another. Here’s a few great books you shouldn’t attempt to put on the stage even if you’re the “hold my beer” of play-writes.
Clive Barker‘s perhaps most famous work to date, immortalized in the cult classic Hellraiser series. It has a lot of the trappings for a pretty good musical: a flawed, anti-hero protagonist that leads the story, a cast of tortured characters that can make for some really good dark ballads. The thing is, Hellbound Heart relies on a lot of gruesome antics to elicit a horrifying response. While musicals are all about spectacle there is a limit to how well that will transfer onto a New York style stage. And the type of audience that may want a musical hybrid of horror lit and an Alice Cooper concert may be too niche to pay for the special effects required to pull this off. Although, a “Dance of the Cenobites” with a pirouetting Pinhead may be worth the ticket price.
There are a number of Amy Tan novels that would make absolutely excellent musicals. The Joy Luck Club? Would probably sell out in its first week. The Bonesetter’s Daughter? Already having been an opera, this going to be the show that every mother drags their daughter to for matinee. The Hundred Secret Senses? We could be singing along before the end of the first act.
But Saving Fish From Drowning is perhaps Tan’s most ambitious and difficult work. The book centers on tourists on a trip though Myanmar (then Burma), features a small indigenous cult, war, and an overly verbose ghostly narrator. This is one of those books that would make bad musicals not because it lacks depth, but because it’s too deep. There’s a lot going on in the book, with significant character growth and uncomfortable situations. It’s experimental which means it takes certain risks that wouldn’t translate very well to the stage. Not to mention the currant genocide in Myanmar means the setting would have a number of sensitivity issues.
Spiegelman’s graphic novel is an eye-opening look at the Holocaust and its aftermath as he recounts his parent’s survival through the ordeal, his mother’s eventual suicide, and his relationship with his father. The two volumes are an exploration of the systematic degradation the Holocaust had on its victims long after the war. This would not work for one simple reason: in the books, Spiegelman renders all the characters as animals based on their ethnicity. Jewish people become mice, Germans are cats and so on. This serves as a blatant metaphor for the systematic dehumanization of the Jewish people. These “animal” constructs become something Spiegelman plays with this in the narrative, shifting certain characters when appropriate. His minimalist art prevents this from becoming parody as well as acknowledging his own distance to the events portrayed.
But if someone were to go Andrew Lloyd Weber Cats! on Maus it would be insensitive and insulting. Not to mention revisiting this trauma in depth for five to seven shows a week isn’t going to be enjoyable for actors, let alone an audience. Worse still would be trying to coordinate any musical numbers or dance breaks that are not offensive on every level.
Do you have any books that would make bad musicals? Let us know in the comments!
(1) If you thought Hamilton’s affairs were saucy wait until you get a look at Franklin’s notorious love life!
Jeff Daniels has been cast to play Atticus Finch in Aaron Sorkin’s stage adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird.
According to Deadline, the play has been in the works for at least two years, with the official announcement of the adaptation in February 2016, and Daniels was in the plan to play the iconic character from the very beginning.
Daniels has large shoes to fill as many still think of Atticus Finch mainly as Gregory Peck’s iconic performance in the 1962 movie. However, it looks as if a lot of the casting for this play will be non-traditional as all of the children will be played by adults.
Scout is set to be played by 40-year-old Celia Keenan-Bolger and Jem will be played by 27-year-old Will Pullen and Dill will be played by 29-year-old Gideon Glick. Casting for all of the characters have been announced except for the pivotal Boo Radley.
To Kill a Mockingbird is set to begin previews on November 1 in New York City with an official open on December 13.
The CW recently added another superhero show its roster with the January premiere of Black Lightning, starring Cress Williams as the titular hero. The show is already electrifying (zing!) critics and audiences, with a 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes so far. If you’re hooked on the Pierce family and want to know where to start reading about them, I’ve rounded up a few of their more notable adventures.
Before we get into the list, it’s worth noting that until the show, which centers black voices in a way we haven’t seen before from DC’s live action offerings, there’s been a serious dearth of black creators behind these heroes. With the notable exception of Trevor Von Eeden, who co-created Black Lightning back in the ’70s, and Clayton Henry, the artist of the current series, I was unable to find any black pencillers with a lengthy or prominent tenure on any of these characters—and no black writers at all. (But please let me know if I’ve missed any!) This is disappointing, to say the least, and I hope DC will rectify it soon.
Jefferson Pierce debuted in his own series in 1977, making him both DC’s first African American superhero and the first black superhero to headline a DC series. (1971’s Vykin the Black (sigh) was DC’s first black hero but as he’s from outer space, he’s clearly neither African nor American.) It ran for 11 issues before being canceled with a wave of other books in the infamous “DC Implosion” of 1978. Still, if you want to see the OG version of the character, this is the place to start. And you can get the whole series for ten bucks!
Black Lightning’s probably most closely associated with the Outsiders, one of DC’s second-string teams that, quite frankly, Batman put together because the Justice League wouldn’t let him boss them around as much as a bunch of C-listers would. It’s a fun book, despite the fact that the classic roster includes colossal bore Geo-Force, but Jeff takes a backseat to the drama of some of the younger, less established characters. Various spinoffs and continuations of this series exist as Adventures of the Outsiders and simply The Outsiders, but basically, if it’s got an ’80s publication date, Jeff’s probably there zapping no-goodniks. (No Pierces are on the ’90s roster, which is probably for the best as that series was hilariously awful.)
This excellent miniseries has Jeff returning to his childhood neighborhood of Metropolis’s Suicide Slum with his wife and young daughter Anissa in tow. He takes over as the principal of a failing high school, but when he interferes with the local criminal organization’s recruitment tactics, things start getting violent, and Jeff has to call on the superpowers he’d like to forget he has. Van Meter and Hamner give us a solid, compelling hero at the center of a rich, fully-realized world. If you only pick up one Black Lightning book, this is the one to get.
Jeff didn’t want his kids fighting crime, but his oldest daughter Anissa made a deal with him: once she finished college, she could decide for herself whether or not she wanted to be a superhero. Her eventual answer? Hell yes. Anissa, who has the ability to control her density, takes on the codename Thunder to join this much younger, hipper roster of Outsiders let by Nightwing and Arsenal. There, she not only gets her first taste of superheroics, but winds up in a romantic relationship with Grace, a bisexual half-Amazon bruiser. Sadly, Anissa’s tenure in later iterations of this book was rocky, both because of unfortunate life events and because the comics themselves weren’t very good, but those early issues are fun, and Grace and Anissa are a great couple.
After Anissa’s difficult heroic debut, Jeff decides to give his youngest daughter Jennifer a bit more structure and has her join the Justice Society, filled as it is with the ranks of DC’s most experienced and mentorly heroes. Jennifer struggles to control her electrical powers and feels isolated from other teenagers as a result, but her brief tenure on the JSA gives her the chance to interact with her (superheroic) peers more than ever before. Unfortunately, she’s never been given much of a spotlight, but hopefully the TV show will help change that.
This currently running 6-issue miniseries ignores or retcons much of Jeff’s pre–New 52 history, giving him Cleveland as a hometown, making Anissa and Jennifer his cousins instead of his daughters, and recasting him as something of a rookie. I don’t love these changes, or DC’s weird commitment to revitalizing characters by reassigning them to their original Bronze Age creators, but this series does at least try to engage with contemporary issues like police brutality and Black Lives Matter. There’s even a (very minor) gender fluid character! Though the writing addresses these topics a little clumsily, the book’s heart is in the right place, and Henry’s art is great.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Thunder and Lightning shorts from the DC Nation programming block that ran 2012–2014, which recast Anissa and Jennifer as much younger. Sadly, there were only two of these, but they’re incredibly cute, and you can watch them both on YouTube: Clothes Make the Hero and Lightning Under the Weather. They’ve also appeared in DC Super Hero Girls.
Are you watching the show? What do you think? What are your favorite Black Lightning/Thunder/Lightning comics?
The ‘90s was a magical decade. You could apply glitter all over without being judged and look forward to watching SNICK every Saturday night. And since our current age is famous for its nostalgic leanings, you may find yourself missing the ’90s sometimes. Though everywhere you look there are rebooted ’90s television shows and movies, if you need even more options to indulge in your love for this era, look no further than these book recommendations.
If you were a riot grrrl…
Read Moxieby Jennifer Mathieu, wherein main character Vivian Carter fights the school’s patriarchal administration over their lax attitude about the shenanigans of the football players. Drawing on her mother’s rebellious ‘90s Riot Grrrl spirit, she endeavors to start a revolution in her high school and make some bad-ass lady friends along the way.
If you loved Ten Things I Hate About You or She’s All That…
You may remember the poem Julia Stiles read, the “Mr. Prez” vanity plate, or the philosophizing about Prada backpacks. However, the most memorable part of these films for me was Gabrielle Union. She’s not the main character in either of these movies, but she steals both of them. If you need an extra dose of Mrs. Union-Wade, be sure to pick up her book We’re Going to Need More Wine: Stories That Are Funny, Complicated, and True.
If you miss teen horror, like Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, or Are You Afraid of the Dark?…
While Final Girlsby Riley Sager isn’t campy like some of these selections from the ’90s were, there is a nostalgic feel to it. The story is about three women who survived horrific massacres: one at camp, one in her sorority house, and the other at a hotel. After years of recovery, survivor Quincy Carpenter is doing well. However, one of the other famous “final girls” winds up dead. Subsequently, Quincy is plunged back into a life of fear and paranoia. Think of this book as a very cool version of Jennifer Love Hewitt screaming, “What are you waiting for, huh?!”
If you miss the world before Facebook…
Imagine that it’s 1996 and you’re at your best friend’s house. You have no idea what your life will look like in fifteen years. That is, until you receive a CD-ROM in the mail containing what will eventually be known as Facebook. In The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Caryolyn Macker, Emma and Josh have to confront what their lives will be like in the future and evaluate what they should do now to ensure those futures are happy ones.
I often get a general sense of bleh around the winter months. I hate being cold, and I hate layering up even more, so I’ve created my own catch-22 of laziness. But this season, in addition to my usual hatred for the temperature, I’ve hit a true ennui with my reading that I cannot quite understand.
Despite my ever-growing to-be-read pile and a general sense of excitement about the titles waiting for me, I can’t quite get myself excited for or fully invested in the things I am already reading.
And its been like this for months. Even from the entire past year, I can only remember two or three titles that really drew me in.
I hate this feeling because there is nothing I love quite the way I love to be fully invested in a book. Go ahead, give me one little reason to be obsessed. I’ll run with it into next Tuesday.
Really. It doesn’t take much. Meet me halfway, books. Come on.
So what’s going on? I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and I have found a few issues.
Reading as a writer
Once I started writing in my mid-20s, reading changed. It can be harder to let go and immerse yourself in a story, because the greater the writing is, the more you want to study it as you read and decipher its genius. You also want to play with the language and think about what you might have done differently.
Perhaps because 2017 was an extremely stressful year, my brain has been on the fritz lately. So I’ve been much worse about this along with other neurotic habits. Like I caught my brain modifying my own writing hero Ray Bradbury last night. Ray Bradbury. Who the hell does my writing brain think I am?
Supporting small press authors
I love my small press. I’m proud to be a small press author. And I’m truly honored to be peers with some of the other amazing authors my small press publishes.
As I branch out in the publishing world through events and online networking, I’ve found myself adding a lot of other authors’ small press releases to my stack—you know, the artist thing, let’s lift each other up, karma, etc.
But. The blunt truth is, small press quality can be really inconsistent. So yeah, some are awesome discoveries. But others are mediocre. Which leads to a mediocre reading experience that doesn’t captivate me the same way.
Sorry small press, lots of love, But this is the reality.
Spreading myself too thin
Work, writing, family drama—2017 just would not quit. It took a toll for sure.
But I spent January recharging and reprioritizing to make more mental space win my life. So would that really have anything to do with an ennui now, in February? I am suspecting that, somehow, yes it does.
But spreading myself too thin is also about not giving each book the attention it’s due. I usually read just one book at a time, carrying it from my bedside to coffee shops and mm metro to work. But in my ennui, I’ve picked up one book after another, until now, I have actively engaged four books this week along that I have in process.
So I am finishing them in the reverse order, starting with the one I am closest to finishing.
Bottom line, I need to get my reading groove back.
So after I finish my in-progress reads, I’m going straight from my vegetables, skipping over the healthy protein of my TBR pile, and reaching straight for dessert: I’m filling my queue with some new reads that I’m utterly enthralled by, and going back to some reads I know will always hit my sweet spot, like Hunger Games, Miriam Black, and Gillian Flynn.
That ought to pull me through, right? After all, spring is right around the corner.
Right? Right? Please lie to me and tell me spring is almost here.
With the announcement of the Staunch Prize and the continued news from the #MeToo movement, there’s been a lot of chatter around the various Book Riot water coolers about sexual violence in books. Whether they handle it well or not, there are tons of titles out there that include sexual assault as a plot point. Happily for those who want a break, there are plenty that don’t! We had an epic round of “recommend a book” in the Insiders sci-fi/fantasy channel on this very topic. So, with thanks to the Insiders, here are 15 SF/F books I’ve read and loved that don’t contain sexual violence against women.
Please note: many of these contain other types of violence.
A more diverse, more light-hearted (and way less footnoted) comp to Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, you should pick this up if: English Magic is your bag; you love Historical Ladies Doing It For Themselves; you have always wanted a magical familiar. And if you really, really, really need something delightful and distracting, I cannot recommend a better fantasy novel. The only caveat I have, so that you can’t say I didn’t warn you, is that it’s the first in a series and the next book isn’t out yet. Read it anyway!
Sophie Hatmaker is the oldest sister of three, which means (according to all the fables) that her life must therefore be boring and quiet. So quiet that when she’s cursed by a wicked sorceress, she finds herself turned into an old woman. What better time to have an adventure? Sophie decides to chase off the Wizard Howl, who has a reputation for breaking girls’ hearts. This is my rainy-day book, my sick-in-bed book, my hide-from-the-world book. It’s the literary equivalent of chicken soup, a steaming mug of hot tea, warm cocoa in front of the fire, and I love it with the fire of a thousand fire demons.
Why is this my favorite vampire novel? Let me count the ways.
The world-building: it takes place in a tweaked version of our own present. Magic is real, humanity lives side by side (albeit not peacefully) with demons and vampires and sprites and whatnot, and all our main character Rae wants to do is make cinnamon rolls for her family’s coffeehouse. Having a main character who not only excels at but loves her mundane, non-magical job is such a delight! Plus the bakery scenes always leave me drooling.
The cast of characters: The story is first-person and therefore sticks close to Rae, but the supporting characters get a (wonderful) load of page-time. From her unlikely vampire ally Constantine to her biker boyfriend Mel to her stepdad Charlie to the coffeehouse regulars, you can see how her social world works and exactly how disruptive getting kidnapped by a bunch of vampires is.
The Tensorate novellas by JY Yang
Following the adventures of twins Akeha and Mokoya, children of the ruthless and conniving Protector, the books introduce us to a world where magic and steam technology mix. Mokoya was born with prophetic gifts but, like Cassandra of Troy, she finds that they don’t make her life any better. Akeha, always in her shadow, finds that he has to develop his own ways to see the world. The Black Tides of Heaven follows them as children and then Akeha’s entrance into political rebellion, while The Red Threads of Fortune follows Mokoya in adulthood after a terrible accident kills her young daughter. I cannot get enough of the world-building in these!
Meet Joe Spork. He’s the son of a con-man who just wants to be left in peace to repair clocks. But you don’t get much peace and quiet when you accidentally turn on a doomsday device. Then there’s Edie Bannister, an octogenarian retired super-spy who discovers that she might have to save the world one more time. This book includes a steampunk submarine, a diabolical dictator, a manufacturing cult, an underground network of mobsters, and so much more. It’s fun and a little heart-breaking, both.
In Gailey’s alternate 1890s America, the U.S. government has imported hippos for ranching. Which sounds great in theory, until they start to escape, turn feral, and murderously infest Louisiana. Enter Winslow Houndstooth, former hippo rancher and mercenary for hire. Houndstooth receives a contract to rid the bayou of its giant violent pests, and puts together a crew to get the job done. The crew includes, for reasons only Houndstooth knows at the beginning, the expert thief Regina “Archie” Archambault, knife expert Adelia Reyes, demolitions expert Hero, and requisite patsy Cal. Of course, nothing goes to plan. Revenge, love, and bribery all complicate the situation. People get eaten by hippos, stabbed, blown up, you name it. This is a gloriously fun, inclusive, queer, “Weird West” frontier romp—and it’s just the first in the series.
Sunny is twelve and is feeling like an outcast. She was born in New York, has moved to Nigeria with her family, and is an albino, so the transition hasn’t been easy on any level. Then one day, she discovers that not only does she have supernatural powers, but there are other kids her age who have them—and they’re going to help her learn how to use them. Just in time, too; a horrible villain is kidnapping and maiming children, and may have even worse plans up his sleeve. Folks have referred to this as “a Nigerian Harry Potter” and they’re not wrong.
This is a time traveling-historian cozy mystery, and for some of you that will be more than enough to go on. For the rest of you: this novel follows contemporary historian Ned Henry, who is sent on a mission to Victorian England to retrieve an important cathedral artifact. Unfortunately, Henry has no idea what he’s supposed to be doing. Fortunately there’s already a historian in the past who’s supposed to help him. Except he’s not sure who it is…So many hijinks ensue!
My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
Ever wondered what would have happened if Jane Grey wasn’t actually beheaded, and if the schism of her time was actually about people who turned into animals versus people who didn’t? Me neither! But this delightful book takes that premise and runs with it. Jane is married off to Gifford, who can turn into a horse, and that’s just the beginning of the adventure. It’s funny, it’s silly, it’s got a fair few romances, and I loved it.
An Asian The Godfather plus magic! Feuding families, magic gemstones, and lots of betrayal, skulduggery, and street fights. For readers who are sold on that premise, characters with questionable moral standing, and don’t mind investing a bunch of time (it’s a long burn but such a good one). The family interactions are complex and emotionally resonant; the fights are well-paced and gorily entertaining; in short, Jade City delivers on its promises. And the ending! Just enough resolution to keep me from throwing the book across the room, just enough questions unanswered to have me eagerly awaiting the next installment.
With the intergalactic politics, pronoun fluidity, and queer/nonbinary characters I’ve enjoyed in Ann Leckie’s previous books, Provenance is also a comedic, much more light-hearted take on the space opera. Ingray, our occasionally careless and ultimately clever heroine, has been competing with her sibling for their adopted mother’s regard—and, eventually, her job—for most of her life. Her latest attempt in family one-upmanship sends her to a trade planet where she hires contractors to break a smuggler out of prison, in an attempt to retrieve the famous historical artifacts that they stole. Nothing from this point on goes as planned. There are aliens, gun battles, mechanical spiders, family squabbles, intergalactic treaties, and a murder mystery, as well as a pointed look at the way we invest meaning into objects. There’s also a couple love stories and some shenanigans with shoes. Did I mention it’s really funny?
In a future version of our world, micro-democracy is the primary governance of the day. With elections called by Information (think of a Google/Facebook hybrid), each centenal of 100,000 people can pick from a menu of various governments. This system is, of course, not without its problems. Someone is out to mess with the next election, and we have a ringside seat to the showdown. In Null States, it’s been almost two years since the election debacle, and Information mostly has things settled. But what should be a simple assignment in shepherding a government into micro-democracy puts one of our characters, Roz, squarely in the middle of an assassination and strange local tensions, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. For thriller fans who also like data-crunching and contemplating the overlap of technology and international politics.
Patricia and Laurence are two odd kids who bonded over their outsider status. Patricia believes she has magic, and Laurence spends all his time programming his home-built AI. They were best friends—until suddenly, they weren’t. Decades later they reconnect—just in time for the apocalypse. If you like your science fiction with a side of fantasy, this one’s for you.
This is the Le Guin novel I’ve reread the most often. George Orr exists in a future Portland of pollution and poverty, but his real problem is that he’s afraid to sleep—he believes that his dreams can change the world around him. When he comes under the supervision of a domineering psychiatrist, things get…well, really weird! This is a beautiful and surreal book I’ve returned to again and again and again.
What if the original inhabitants of the Belgian Congo had had better technology? That’s the premise Shawl started with for this steampunk rewrite of one of the worst human rights disasters in history. Jumping from character to character and covering decades of alternate history, this is an epic undertaking—and a successful one. King Leopold of Belgium is still the worst, and the protagonists have to deal with not only colonial violence, but the internal politics and machinations of several (occasionally competing, occasionally cooperative) groups—idealistic British Socialists, immigrant worker populations, escaped American slaves, as well as the native African peoples. Host to a plethora of voices, Everfair is both a page-turner and food for thought.
Got a favorite not on this list? Share it in the comments!
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