Dig a little deeper into the books you love to read with The BiblioFiles, our illuminating interviews with children's book authors! From award-winning bestsellers to books you might not have heard of (but should definitely check out), listen to what the authors have to say about their creations!
BilblioFiles host Dana Sheridan won the New Jersey Center for the Book’s Miss Rumphius Award. This award honors educators who are stellar at spreading ideas and creative literacy programming via the internet. Way to go Dr. Dana!
Authors are listed in alphabetical order by last name. Simply click on the author's name below to jump to his/her entry on the webpage. A link to the interview's transcript and podcast is located there as well.
All audios are copyrighted to the Trustees of Princeton University and cannot be used without permission. For permission, please email firstname.lastname@example.org Enjoy!
Platte F. Clark
Trenton Lee Stewart
This February, our guest will be M.T. Anderson, author of many books, including The Game of Sunken Places and The Suburb Beyond the Stars.
The Game of Sunken Places begins with an elegant gold-leafed invitation addressed to Gregory Buchanan. Gregory and his best friend Brian Thatz accept the invitation and depart to the wilds of Vermont to visit Gregory’s eccentric and wealthy uncle. Uncle Max insists on doing things the old-fashioned way. And by old-fashioned I mean the early 1900s, when boys still wore knee-socks and suffered wet tweed in stoic silence.
Brian and Gregory discover an unusual game board and are quickly swept into a weird world where the fate of two non-human races depends on the outcome of the game. In the sequel, The Suburb Beyond the Stars, Brian and Gregory are once again involved with the creatures of the game. Only this time, one side is cheating and all of human civilization is at stake, starting with an eerie suburb that has sprung up on the original game site.
The books are paced like an old-fashioned boys adventure novel, packed with quirky modern humor and then perfectly placed against a spooky, mysterious backdrop where danger lurks in the woods, under the earth, and on the green soccer fields of anti-suburbia.
In addition to The Game of Sunken Places series, M.T. Anderson has also written The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume 1: The Pox Party, which won a National Book Award in 2006 and was named a Michael L. Printz Honor book in 2007. Its sequel, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves also received a Michael L. Printz honor. Anderson has authored other award-winning young adult books such as Feed (which was a finalist for the National Book Award and winner of the LA Times Book Award), Thirsty, and Burger Wuss as well as and middle school books such as Whales on Stilts, The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen, and Jasper Dash and the Flame Pits of Delaware.
The third book in the series, The Empire of Gut and Bone, is due out this summer.
Premiere date: February 5, 2011
Want to learn more about M.T. Anderson? Click here to visit his website!
Author photo by Deborah Noyes
This July, our guest will be Atinuke, author of the Anna Hibiscus series.
Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa. Amazing Africa. She lives in a big white house on a compound with her extended family - mother, father, twin baby brothers, grandmother, grandfather, aunts, uncles, and numerous cousins. The books tell the story of Anna’s life with her family and her experiences in both Africa and eventually, the larger world.
Filled with interesting stories and endearing characters, the series gives young readers an amazing portrait of life in a large family in Africa. Atinuke also addresses serious social issues, such as Anna’s first encounters with children from an unfamiliar culture, the plight of the young orange sellers outside the gates of Anna’s family compound, and her eye-opening trip to the other side of the city, where children in rags beg and search rubbish piles for food.
Atinuke’s skill at navigating these difficult scenes with the reader is admirable, as are the humorous scenes involving Anna’s large family and community. The Anna Hibiscus books are written with honesty, humanity, joy, and love.
In addition to the Anna Hibiscus books, Atinuke has written The No. 1 Car Spotter, a story that features a boy in a small village in Africa. His favorite hobby is to spot cars as they pass by on the road - a task he carries out with great enthusiasm.
Premiere date: July 20, 2013
This February, our guest will be Tracey Baptiste, author of The Jumbies.
Corinne La Mer knows that she should stay out of the forest. Her father warned her about wild animals, but some villagers speak of something even more sinister in the forest: jumbies. Jumbies are bad spirits who can trick you, confuse you, hurt you, or even kill you. While Corinne manages to enter and leave the forest unharmed, she unknowingly leads Severine, a powerful and vengeful jumbie, to her home. Severine has a secret to share about Corinne’s past and a mission to reclaim what she believes to be hers.
The Jumbies is a fantastically spooky modern folktale. Set in the Caribbean, the book transports the reader to another part of the world while introducing a menagerie of creatures from Caribbean lore. La Diabless, soucouyant, lagahoo, douens and others. It’s deliciously spine-tingling with just the right amount of suspense. But like any good fairy tale, it balances dark with light. The Jumbies is also a story of love, courage, resourcefulness, and inner magic.
In addition to The Jumbies, Baptiste has written Angel’s Grace, a young adult novel, and several non-fiction books for middle grade readers.
Premiere date: February 20, 2016
Want to learn more about Tracey Baptiste? Click here to visit her website!
This April, our guest is Jeanne Birdsall, author of The Penderwicks and its sequel, The Penderwicks of Gardam Street.
In The Penderwicks, Rosalind, Skye, Jane, Batty, their father and their dog are off to a rented summer cottage on Arundel, a very grand country estate. The sisters’ exploration of the grounds soon leads them to Jeffrey, the only son of Arundel’s snooty owner, Mrs. Tifton. Sadly, Jeffrey’s summer is set to end with admission into a military academy, despite his dearest wish to go to music school. The Penderwicks quickly befriend him and try their best to help him escape his fate.
In the much-anticipated second book in the series The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, the family has returned home and resumed their active, loud, chaotic, Penderwick way of life. The girls are horrified when Aunt Claire announces that after 4 years of widowerhood, it’s time for Mr. Penderwick to begin dating again. They launch the “Save Daddy Plan” which involves setting their father up with the most horrible women they can find.
The plots sound simple, but these books are far from it. They are rich with subplots, adventures, and escapades. Each sister has so much character and individuality that you instantly feel yourself being folded into this large family, experiencing all the fun, frustrations, love, tears, camaraderie, rivalry, and quirkiness that is Penderwick.
Both books were New York Times bestsellers and multiple award winners. The Penderwicks won the National Book Award in 2005. In 2009, it was ONE of just two books that the First Family stuffed into children’s backpacks for the United We Serve program.
Premiere date: April 17, 2010
Want to learn more about Jeanne Birdsall? Click here to visit her website!
This February, our guest will be Tom Bodett, author of Williwaw! and Norman Tuttle on the Last Frontier.
In the book, Williwaw!, thirteen year-old September Crane and her eleven year-old brother Ivan are in a situation most kids dream about. Their Dad has trusted them to take care of themselves while he earns much-needed money on a commercial fishing boat. So, instead of going to Aunt Nelda and Uncle Spitz’s horrible farm, September and Ivan are home, alone for two whole weeks. “Alone” takes on new meaning when you consider that that family lives in Alaska in a cabin so far in the wilderness, they need a boat to get to the closest town and only have two radios to communicate with the outside world.
When Ivan fries both radios while trying to hook up his hand-held video game, it starts a chain of events that ends with the children alone, on the water, facing one of the most dangerous storms Alaska has to offer: a williwaw – the same type of storm that claimed their mother’s life a few years earlier.
Norman Tuttle on the Last Frontier, also set in Alaska, is the story of a teenage boy trying to deal with situations that are both typical for his age (annoying younger siblings, bullies at school, falling in love for the first time) and not so typical (getting in huge trouble with your parents for a party you didn’t actually mean to happen, and getting mugged in Seattle by a thug named Tango). Told with insight, humor and a few painful truths, the book is like a buddy movie set someplace very, very snowy and cold.
Tom Bodett isn’t just a children’s book author. He also writes books for adults and his work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Reader’s Digest, and Harper’s Magazine. He has been a commentator for National Public Radio, and is a regular panelist on "Wait Wait...Don’t Tell Me," NPR's weekly quiz show. Tom Bodett has lent his vocal talents to Saturday Night Live, National Geographic Explorer, Animaniacs, Motel 6 commercials, and several documentary films.
Premiere date: February 4, 2012
Want to learn more about Tom Bodett? Click here to visit his website!
Author photo by Deborah Ayer
This October, our guest will be Pseudonymous Bosch, author of the Secret Series, which starts with: The Name of This Book is Secret and continues with If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late; This Book Is Not Good For You; and This Isn’t What it Looks Like.
Cassandra and Max-Ernest (not their real names, of course) are two average kids living in a town like the one you live in. Well, Cass and Max-Ernest are as average as you can be providing that you are the heir to a huge secret that could mean the downfall of the world as you know it AND have a dangerous underground society called the Masters of the Midnight Sun pursuing you. Yes, just an average sort of life where you are constantly wondering if you are going to be kidnapped, then you actually are kidnapped and barely escape and then you discover a type of chocolate that allows you to time travel. Did we mention the sock monster? Swords disguised as violin bows? Recipes for survivalist trail mix?
As bad as these books are for you, they’ve somehow been New York Times bestsellers and have been nominated for honors such as the Edgar Award and the E.B. White Award. And one even won the NAPPA Gold Award in 2007. Not that you should read them yourself though. In fact, you should stay far, far away from them.
The fifth and final book in this series, You Have to Stop This, was released in September. Don’t read it. And don’t ask your friend what happens in the end, either. That’s just cheating.
Premiere date: October 1, 2011
Want to learn more about Pseudonymous Bosch? Click here to visit his website!
PLATTE F. CLARK
This May, our guest will be Platte F. Clark, author of Bad Unicorn.
Max Spencer, middle school student, is about to have a very unusual day. It begins when he drags an old book from under his bed to use for a last-minute book report. Unbeknownst to Max, this book is the legendary Codex of Infinite Knowability, the most powerful book in three worlds, and Max is a descendent of Maximilian Sporazo, the book’s creator. Right now, however, Max is just hoping to avoid the school bully, Ricky “The Kracken” Reynolds, and hang out with Dirk, his hyperactive, game-obsessed best friend.
When Max unknowingly unleashes a spell from the Codex, he transports himself, Dirk, a girl named Sarah, and a disgruntled dwarf named Dwight into a future where humans are extinct and machines have taken over. It’s going to take more than Glenn, the Legendary Dagger of Motivation, to get them out of this mess. As if that isn’t bad enough, Max and his companions are being hunted by a unicorn. A bad unicorn. A nasty, petulant, human-eating unicorn. Princess the Destroyer has agreed to find Max and the Codex in exchange for an all-the-humans-you-can-eat rampage in Texas.
Bad Unicorn is irreverent, ironical, and completely hilarious. Clark composes an epic tale of good versus evil complete with nods to Dungeons & Dragons, computer games, malevolent sci-fi robots, zombies, and 80s arcade games. There’s even a dash of geek romance and an explanation of the true purpose of Jackaolopes. Bad Unicorn has it all.
The second book in the trilogy, Fluff Dragon, was released in April 2014.
Premiere date: May 24, 2014
Want to learn more about Platte F. Clark? Click here to visit his website!
This July, our guest will be award-winning author Sharon Creech.
In a career that has spanned more than twenty years, Sharon Creech has produced distinctive works of literature for children and teens. Her books include Walk Two Moons, which won the Newbery Award in 1995 and inspired the companion novels Chasing Redbird and Bloomability. The Wanderer was a finalist for the Newbery Award in 2000, and Ruby Holler won the Carnegie Medal in 2002. Creech has also written books in verse, including Love That Dog, which was a finalist for the Carnegie Medal in 2001.
Powerful, emotional, humorous, gracious, sorrowful, scary, glorious, joyful, remarkable , playful, and heartfelt are words that describe the works of Sharon Creech. She excels at crafting stories that draw you in, make you think, make you feel, and make you a better person.
Her newest book, The Boy on the Porch, is the story of John and Marta, a young couple who find an unusual young boy on their porch. The boy can’t speak but eventually begins to communicate through his musical and artistic talents. John and Marta form a powerful bond with the boy, one that truly defines what love, trust, acceptance, and family mean.
Premiere date: July 19, 2014
Want to learn more about Sharon Creech? Click here to visit her website!
This April, our guest will be Joseph Delaney, author of The Last Apprentice series for young adult readers.
The books tell the dark, spooky, and intriguing tale of Thomas Ward, a young apprentice whose job is to deal with the frightening things that inhabit the night. As the series progresses, Tom’s job gets more difficult and the stakes get higher for his master and his close (and highly suspect) friend, Alice, who has a habit of dabbling in dark magic. The first book in the series, Revenge of the Witch, was published in 2005. There are now five books, with more on the way.
The Last Apprentice series is full of suspense, ancient lore, and terrifying creatures. The books are written in simple, yet highly descriptive, prose and the visual elements are enhanced by chilling black and white illustrations at the start of each chapter. If you love a good scary story, this series is definitely for you.
Mr. Delaney’s books have been printed in 24 languages, and a film version of the first book is currently in pre-production. The newest book in the series, The Spook’s Tale, is due out in April.
Premiere date: April 18, 2009
Want to learn more about Joseph Delaney? Click here to visit his website
This May, our guest will be Lissa Evans, author of Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms and its sequel, Horten’s Incredible Illusions.
Stuart Horten has problems. First, he’s short. Very short. Second, he’s just moved to a new town and is bored. Very bored. Third, the triplet girls who live next door appear to have some sort of journalistic vendetta against him. They’re relentless. But everything changes when Stuart discovers a cache of old coins and a hidden message from his Great-Uncle, Tony. Great-Uncle Tony was a renowned stage magician, illusionist, and creator of fabulous contraptions. He mysteriously disappeared in 1940, leaving behind a secret workshop. If Stuart can follow the clues and solve the puzzles, he’ll find the workshop.
In the sequel, Stuart, accompanied by his friend April, once again finds himself on a mysterious adventure. This time, the clues are embedded in a series of Great-Uncle Tony’s custom-built stage illusions. But the magic is real, and in some cases, dangerous. And Stuart and April aren’t the only ones interested in getting their hands on what Great-Uncle Tony has hidden.
These books are so much fun to read, and to read aloud, to kids. They are creative, humorous, intriguing, and perfectly paced. Stuart and April are wonderful characters who squabble and reconcile so realistically, you feel like you’re joining a pair of old friends. The clever clues, puzzles, and the mysteries they unveil will keep you intrigued until the very end. Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms was short-listed for the Carnegie Medal and the Costa Book Awards.
Premiere date: May 16, 2015
Want to learn more about Lissa Evans? Click here to visit her character's Facebook page!
This September, our guest will be Kat Falls, author of Dark Life and its sequel, Rip Tide.
Dark Life is set in the future after a global disaster has caused most of the world to sink under the seas. Most humans live Topside, crammed into over-populated cities, stacked on top of one another in graffiti-covered skyscrapers. But a small group of scientists and pioneers choose to live below the seas and farm the deep ocean floor – a place that is as dangerous as it is beautiful.
Fifteen-year-old Ty was born subsea and has a secret he’s desperate to keep. He has a Dark Gift, something that develops in children who live subsea. For Ty, it’s biosonar ability; for his sister Zoe, it’s the ability to shock like an electric eel. Dark Gifts are considered abnormal and must be hidden from everyone – including one's own parents. Ty’s world changes when he meets Gemma, a girl from Topside who comes to the subsea to find her older brother. Together, they make some dangerous discoveries that neither of them expected.
In the sequel, Rip Tide, Ty and Gemma uncover a wreck while try to anchor some supplies in a trash vortex in the Atlantic. It turns out that the wreck is a crime scene – an underwater community that was deliberately sealed and sunk with the inhabitants still inside. In the wake of this crime, another happens. Ty’s parents are kidnapped during a crop sale, throwing Ty and Gemma into the underworld of politics, outlaws, and perilous secrets.
The Dark Life series is unlike any other. The various machinery used to traverse the ocean floor, the flexible architecture of subsea homes, the liquigen you breathe into your lungs to survive the deep, Kat Falls has created a unique world with amazing details and a biology textbook full of aquatic wildlife. The pace is fast, and her ability to weave characters, emotion, dialogue, and details into the story is astounding.
Kat Falls’ new young adult book, Inhuman, was released this month.
Premiere date: September 21, 2013
Want to learn more about Kat Falls? Click here to visit her website!
This February, our guest will be Candace Fleming who, in addition to writing picture and chapter books, also writes historical biographies. We’ll be talking about these biographies, which include Ben Franklin’s Almanac: Being a True Account of the Good Gentleman’s Life; Our Eleanor: A Scrapbook Look at Eleanor Roosevelt’s Remarkable Life; The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary; The Great and Only Barnum: The Tremendous, Stupendous Life of Showman P.T. Barnum; and Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart.
These biographies are packed with information, quotes, images, letters, engravings, and photographs. They flow at just the right pace for readers, without overstating the good parts, shying away from the bad parts, or glossing over the ugly parts of these remarkable peoples’ lives. Woven into the biographies is information about the politics, social landscapes, controversies, and conflicts of the time period, creating a richer context that enables the reader to better understand these historical figures. Each biography is an informative, emotional, and uplifting history lesson crafted by a truly talented researcher and author.
Fleming’s biographies are multiple award winners that repeatedly appear on “best of” lists for national publications, organizations, and libraries. Amelia Lost won the Golden Kite Award for Nonfiction in 2012, and The Great and Only Barnum was one of the American Library Association’s Best Books for Young Adults in 2010 and a finalist for the Excellence in Young Adult Nonfiction award.
Her new biography, The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion And The Fall of Imperial Russia, will be released in the Fall, 2014.
Premiere date: February 1, 2014
Want to learn more about Candace Fleming? Click here to visit her website!
Author photo by Michael Lionstar
This November, our guest will be S.E. Hinton, author of The Outsiders, That Was Then, This is Now, Tex, Rumble Fish, and Taming the Star Runner.
In 1967, a new voice entered the world of children’s publishing. It was the tough, unfiltered, empathetic, and frank voice of Ponyboy Curtis, the main character in Hinton’s ground-breaking and genre-creating novel, The Outsiders. Fourteen-year-old Ponyboy lives with his big brothers, Sodapop and Darry. They are orphans, and Darry has set aside his dreams of college in order to shoulder the responsibilities of providing for his younger brothers. Ponyboy, his brothers, and his friends are greasers. They grow their hair long, wear leather jackets, drive old souped-up cars, and rove in gangs. They also clash – often very violently - with the Socs, the upper-class teens from the West-side who seem to have it all. When the violence results in a death, Ponyboy and his friend, Johnny, must go on the run or face the judgement of a system that is already stacked against them.
Hinton’s characters navigate confusing, turbulent, bleak, intense, and often unfair worlds that were previously unheard of in children’s literature. The raw truths of Hinton’s novels ushered in a new category of children’s literature – Young Adult fiction. In 1988, she was the recipient of the American Library Association’s first annual Margaret A. Edwards Award, an award that honors authors whose books “have been accepted by young adults as an authentic voice that continues to illuminate their experiences and emotions, giving insight into their lives.”
It’s important to add that while gritty, Hinton’s books also carry with them messages of understanding, acceptance, choice, family, forgiveness, strength, and hope. They are both heartbreaking and illuminating, desolate and thought-provoking, frightening and beautiful.
In addition to her YA books, Hinton also has a chapter book for younger readers called The Puppy Sister, and a picture book called Big David, Little David.
Premiere date: November 7, 2015
Want to learn more about S.E. Hinton? Click here to visit her website!
Author photo by David Erdek
It's our first BiblioFiles in front of a live audience! Our guest is Norton Juster, author of the legendary book, The Phantom Tollbooth.
Milo is a boy who doesn’t know what to do with himself, isn’t interested in much, and doesn’t see the point in anything. But when a mysterious package containing a toy tollbooth arrives in his room, everything changes.
Past the tollbooth are the Lands Beyond, which house places like Dictionopolis, the Valley of Sound, the Doldrums, Digitopolis, and the Mountains of Ignorance. Milo is soon joined by a pair of unusual travel companions, Tock and Humbug, as he attempts to bring Princesses Rhyme and Reason back to settle the warring kingdoms of Words and Numbers.
First published in 1961, The Phantom Tollbooth is wacky, smart, odd, fun, strange, and completely captivating. It is often compared to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in terms of its intelligence, word play, and impact on children’s literature. Now, in over 50 years of publication, The Phantom Tollbooth, with its iconic illustrations by Jules Feiffer, has been analyzed in scholarly papers, quoted in dissertations, included in graduate classes, documented on film, read aloud in elementary school classrooms, passed along through generations of families, and newly discovered by young readers. It is, and will always be, a seminal book in the history of children’s literature.
In addition to The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster has written The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics, Alberic The Wise and Other Journeys, As: A Surfeit of Similies, The Hello, Goodbye Window, Sourpuss and Sweetie Pie, The Odious Ogre, and Neville. In 2011, The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth, with introduction and notes by scholar Leonard Marcus, was released.
Premiere date: May 14, 2016
Author photo courtesy of Random House
This November, our guest will be Jacqueline Kelly, author of The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. The book is set in Texas in 1899, where eleven-year-old Calpurnia Tate lives on a large farm with her parents, grandfather, and six brothers.
Calpurnia is being groomed for a typical 19-century female future of cooking, piano lessons, sewing, knitting, and debutante parties. But what she really wants is to be a scientist. Calpurnia is utterly fascinated by the natural world around her and longs to go to University. Her only ally is her imposing Grandfather, an amateur naturalist who divides his time between his library, his laboratory, and the fields, streams, and woods around the house.
Narrated by the frank, insightful, defiant, and delightful Calpurnia, the book is an amazing and humorous combination of personal story, natural history, and life in turn-of-the-century Texas. The audiobook version is due out this month.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate was named a Newbery Honor book in 2010.
Premiere date: November 21, 2009
Want to learn more about Jacqueline Kelly? Click here to visit her website!
Author photo by Deanna Roy
This January, our guest will be Martin Kratt from the popular PBS Kids animated series Wild Kratts. Along with his brother Chris, Martin writes, directs, and stars in the show.
Wild Kratts is best described as a blend of zoology, biology, science fiction, and comedy. Team Wild Kratt consists of brothers Martin & Chris, engineer Aviva, communications expert Koki, and pilot Jimmy Z. The team is on a constant global road trip as they visit and observe creatures in their various habitats. Martin and Chris can also become the creatures with the help of their high tech Creature Power Suits. By touching the creature and pressing a chest disc, the brothers transform into slick, stylized versions of mammals, reptiles, birds, and insects. Along with the animated portions of the program, there are live action segments in which Martin and Chris introduce the real creatures and habitats featured in the program.
In addition to Wild Kratts and their live national tours, the Kratt brothers have produced a number of award-winning nature shows including Kratt’s Creatures, Zoboomafoo, and Be The Creature. Wild Kratts has earned them three daytime Emmy nominations for “Outstanding Writing in a Children’s Series.”
The Kratt Brothers are informative, fun, and completely engaging. They have an intrinsic talent for making non-fiction exciting and inspirational. From the smallest insect to the largest mammal, their enthusiasm for creatures is genuine and infectious. I can honestly say I see the creature world in a completely different light after enjoying several seasons of Wild Kratts with my children.
This summer, the Kratt Brothers published their first Wild Kratts book, Wild Sea Creatures: Sharks, Whales, and Dolphins! Their second book, Wild Reptiles: Snakes, Crocodiles, Lizards, and Turtles will be released in January.
Premiere date: January 10, 2015
Want to learn more about Wild Kratts? Click here to visit their website!
Photo by J. Shulz, Brookfield Zoo.
This May, our guest will be Wendy Mass, author of many books for young adults. But today, we’ll be focusing on two: A Mango-Shaped Space and Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life.
A Mango-Shaped Space is about a girl named Mia, who has a rare, but extremely interesting, condition that she is finding increasingly difficult to hide from her family, friends, and schoolmates. Written from Mia’s perspective, the book gives an intimate and completely fascinating first-hand look into what it’s like to have this condition.
Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life is about a soon-to-be teenager who is thrown into a modern-day quest when he receives a mysterious package from his father, who died 4 years earlier. The package contains a locked wooden box with four keyholes but no keys. Carved on the top of the box are the words: THE MEANING OF LIFE: FOR JEREMY FINK TO OPEN ON HIS 13th BIRTHDAY. Jeremy and his best friend Lizzy have four weeks to scour New York City to find the keys in time for Jeremy’s birthday. It’s a fantastic and intriguing read – full of humor, wit, insight, and emotion as Jeremy comes to grips with the death of his father and yes, the meaning of life.
A Mango-Shaped Space won the American Library Association’s Schneider Family Book Award in 2004; Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life was named as a Junior Library Guild Premier Selection and was included in the New York Public Library's Best Books for the Teen Age in 2007.
Premiere date: May 30, 2009
Want to learn more about Wendy Mass? Click here to visit her website!
This April, our guest will be Victoria McKernan, author of Shackleton’s Stowaway.
In 1914, British explorer Ernest Shackleton and his crew of twenty-seven men set off on a tremendously ambitious expedition. Their goal was to be the first men to cross the Antarctic continent. Unfortunately, their ship, the Endurance, never reached land. Instead, it became trapped by pack ice in the Weddell Sea.
The ship was eventually crushed by the ice, forcing the men to travel by lifeboat and land on the barren and inhospitable Elephant Island. Since the island was too remote for passing ships, there was no hope of rescue. So Shackleton and five others returned to sea in a tiny boat and sailed 800 miles to South Georgia Island. There, they hoped to contact a whaling station and return for the others. When hurricane-strength winds forced them to land on the wrong side of South Georgia island, Shackleton and two others trekked twenty-five miles over mountains – 36 hours without stopping - to reach civilization. Eventually, Shackleton rescued the three men on South Georgia Island, and the twenty-two men stranded on Elephant Island. Despite incredible odds and unimaginable hardships, not a single man was lost.
The story of Ernest Shackleton is absolutely true, and author Victoria McKernan brings it to life through the eyes of Perce Blackborrow, a young sailor who actually stowed away on the Endurance in 1914. McKernan enhances the historical story with fiction and imagination to create an amazing and fast-paced tale, skillfully breathing life into the characters and settings. You feel you are right there with the men as they set sail, abandon ship, barely survive the journey in the lifeboats, and then wait in agony, and hope, to be rescued. Once finished, you feel as if you have adventured at the edge of the world and lived to tell the tale.Premiere date: April 28, 2012
Want to learn more about Victoria McKernan? Click here!
This January, our guest will be Sarah Miller, author of Miss Spitfire and The Lost Crown.
Chances are, you’ve already heard of Miss Spitfire. It’s the childhood nickname of Annie Sullivan, companion and teacher of Helen Keller, a deafblind girl in late 19th century America who later rose, with the tireless assistance of Annie Sullivan, to international fame for her achievements. The incredible true story of these women is recorded in history books and has been an inspiration to millions.
In Miss Spitfire, Sarah Miller presents a fictionalized account of Annie Sullivan’s first arrival at the Keller house and her struggle to reach 6-year-old Helen, who is wild, stubborn, violent, and trapped inside her head with no awareness of words or their meaning. Any other teacher might have been daunted by the task, but not Annie. Raised in orphanages, state institutions, and nearly blind herself, Annie was tough, resourceful, and just as willful as her young pupil. Within a few weeks, Annie had reached Helen and given her the words and concepts she needed to finally connect her mind with the world. Annie would remain with Helen as teacher and companion for the next forty-nine years.
Miss Spitfire is a captivating read. Instead of painting the story in gentle, glossy tones, Miller focuses on the struggles, the doubts, and even the physical battles between Annie and Helen while also bringing to light the pain and sorrow of Annie’s past. While this could result in a sad tale, it absolutely doesn’t. By showing the hard road Annie and Helen traveled, it makes the little triumphs and the final tremendous breakthrough all the more powerful, golden, and inspiring. It is an amazing book.
In addition to Miss Spitfire, Sarah Miller has written The Lost Crown, a young adult novel that details the life and eventual downfall of the family of Czar Nicolas the II of Russia in the early 1900s. The paperback version of The Lost Crown was released in July of this year.
Premiere date: January 19, 2013
Want to learn more about Sarah Miller? Click here to visit her website!
Author photo by Janelle Hamrick Photography
This February, our guest will be Kenneth Oppel, author of the award-winning Silverwing series and several other books for children and young adults. Today we'll be talking to him about his most recent series, which features the books Airborn and Skybreaker.
Set in a world parallel to our own, the books follow the adventures of Matt Cruse, a young sky sailor aboard the airship Aurora, and Kate de Vries, an amateur zoologist with a penchant for pursuing extremely dangerous new species of animals. From relentless sky pirates to ghost ships
sailing at 20,000 feet above the Earth, to the airless realms of outer space, to say this series is action-packed is a supreme understatement. The books are incredibly fast-paced, and, while fictitious, contain just the right amount of believability to make them enticingly real. The characters are dynamic and witty, and at times the dialogue seems to crackle off the page. The interesting settings, cool machines, and wry humor make these books absolutely addictive and utterly satisfactory.
Airborn won the 2004 Governor General's Award and the Michael L. Printz Honor award in 2005. Skybreaker was the 2005 London Times Children’s Book of the Year, and a New York Times bestseller in 2006. The third book, Starclimber, is due out this month.
Premiere date: February 7, 2009
Posted with the kind permission of WPRB
Want to learn more about Kenneth Oppel? Click here to visit his website!
Author photo by Peter Riddihough
This September, our guest will be esteemed author, Philip Pullman.
Pullman’s writing career began with the publication of the hilarious Count Karlstein in 1982. That was followed by The Ruby in the Smoke, the first in a quartet of mystery and intrigue novels that feature Victorian adventurer, Sally Lockhart. His best-known work, however, is the epic and genre-transcending book, The Golden Compass (called Northern Lights in the UK) and its sequels, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass.
Pullman has won numerous awards, including the Carnegie Medal, the Guardian Children’s Book Award, the Whitbread Book of the Year Award (now known as the Costa Award), and the Astrid Lindgren Award. He also won the “Carnegie of Carnegies,” for The Golden Compass, which was chosen as the winning book of all the Carnegie winners from the past 70 years.
Pullman creates and animates his characters and their worlds with exceptional imagination, humanity, depth, and confidence. You are not reading his books. You are living his books, experiencing the fear, joy, pain, and revelation as the characters do. It’s absolutely extraordinary.
Premiere date: September 20, 2014
Want to learn more about Philip Pullman? Click here to visit his website!
Author photo by K.T. Bruce
This March, our guest will be Marie Rutkoski, author of the Kronos Chronicles, a series which currently includes the books The Cabinet of Wonders and The Celestial Globe. Set in 16th-century Europe, the books parallel our world with one significant exception. In the world of the books, magic is possible, even though magical ability is rare, especially outside the nobility.
In Okno, a small town near Prague, Petra Kronos lives with her father and relatives at their shop, The Sign of the Compass. Petra’s father, Mikal Kronos, is a craftsman blessed with a brilliant mind and a magical ability to work with metal. He is hired by Prince Rodolfo to build a fabulous clock in Prague with a secret power that could wreak havoc on the Prince’s enemies. When Master Kronos finishes the clock, the cruel Prince magically removes his eyes and sends him home, blind. Outraged, Petra travels to Prague to steal her father’s eyes back from the Cabinet of Wonders, the Prince’s infamous magic collection, and destroy the heart of the clock in the process.
In the second book in the series, The Celestial Globe, Petra and her father are once again in danger as the Prince demands their capture. Petra barely escapes and finds herself in London, caught in a complex world of espionage, murder, magic, and the hunt for the Mercator Globes, a legendary set of globes that can open portals into different locations all over the world.
If you are searching for an original, ingenious, and captivating series, look no further than these books. Rutkoski weaves adventure, fantasy, magic, and history together perfectly to create a fascinating world of intrigue, danger, triumph, and friendship. The dialogue is just as fast-paced as the action, making the pages fly by and leaving you wanting more immediately after you close each book.
Premiere date: March 5, 2011
Want to learn more about Marie Rutkoski? Click here to visit her website!
Author photo by Stephen Scott Gross
This October, our guest is Brandon Sanderson, author of the Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians series. The premise of the series is simple: everything you know is a lie. Evil librarians control the world, feeding us false information (like physics) to keep us complacent and blissfully ignorant.
The veil is lifted forever the day our hero, orphan Alcatraz Smedry, turns 13. Alcatraz (a self-proclaimed liar, coward, and deviant with a talent for breaking things) receives a bag of sand from his long-lost parents. The sands lead him to a new world – a world where Occulators and members of the royal Smedry family do battle with evil, sword-wielding, librarians with taped glasses.
Narrated by the unreliable Alcatraz, the books are hilarious, innovative, and infinitely clever, taking all the familiar concepts you know, twisting them, and then presenting them in a completely new light...with plenty of swords, explosions, battles, traps, and dinosaurs with English accents thrown in.
The third book in the series, Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia, is due out this month.
Premiere date: October 3, 2009
Want to learn more about Brandon Sanderson? Click here to go to his website!
Author photo by Micah DeMoux
This September, our guest will be Gary Schmidt, author of many books, including Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, Straw Into Gold, Trouble, First Boy, and the two books we’ll be discussing today - The Wednesday Wars, and Okay for Now.
The Wednesday Wars features Holling Hoodhood, a seventh-grader whose teacher, Mrs. Baker, is out to get him. Really. Why else would she make him pound erasers, clean out rat cages, and read Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest? Twice. And then there’s Doug Swieteck’s brother, who has sworn to kill him, his infuriating older sister, the whole incident with the cream puffs, the wrath of the entire eighth grade cross-country team, and the pressure of being the perfect son set to inherit the family business.
Okay for Now, the companion novel to The Wednesday Wars, follows Holling’s former classmate, Doug Swieteck, as his family abruptly moves to stupid Marysville, a stupid little town in upstate New York where the stupid library is only open one stupid day a week. But on the second floor of the library, Doug stumbles upon a treasure: a huge book in a glass case that depicts a bird. A bird falling out of the sky into the cold green sea, terrified. Doug looks at the bird’s eye and recognizes the fear and pain he feels in his own life - his abusive father, his sadistic older brother, his oppressed mother, and Lucas, his other brother who returns from the war permanently disabled and haunted.
Both novels, set in America during the Vietnam War, could be called coming of age stories. But this would be a vast oversimplification. These books are a testimony to all that makes us human, and how, even in the face of adversity and pain, help, humor, understanding, and joy can come from unexpected places such as the drawings of John James Audubon, a girl holding a dried rose with a ribbon around it, a phrase of Shakespeare, a game of horseshoes, a passage from Jane Austin, or the cool green baseball field within Yankee Stadium.
Gary Schmidt is a multiple-award winning author. Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy received a Newbery Honor and the Pritz Honor in 2005. The Wednesday Wars received a Newbery Honor in 2008, and Okay for Now was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2011. In addition to his accomplished authoring, Mr. Schmidt is a Professor of English at Calvin College in Michigan.
Premiere date: September 15, 2012
Want to learn more about Gary Schmidt? Click here to visit his website!
Author photo by Myrna Anderson
This May, our guest will be Jeff Smith, creator of the epic comic, BONE.
The story begins with the three Bone cousins - Fone Bone, Phoney Bone, and Smiley Bone - lost in an uncharted desert. Shortly after they discover a rudimentary map, they are separated by a massive swarm of locusts. As they try to find each other, they become enmeshed in a larger story - one that involves a girl names Thorn, dragons, prophecies, a kingdom called Atheia, and the menacing (and sometimes very stupid) Rat Creatures.
BONE is the perfect comic. The characters are intriguing, the artwork is captivating, and the story is completely absorbing. Smith is a master of timing - both with the pace of his panels and the tempo of his storytelling. The blend of humor and drama creates an instant connection with the reader and makes the comic virtually impossible to put down. Which is no small feat, considering that the full run of the comic is over 1,300 pages!
BONE has been published internationally, and translated into over 20 languages. It has won eleven Harvey Awards and 10 Eisner Awards (including Best Cartoonist and Best Humor Publication). It was named Best Comic Book by the National Cartoonist Society, and TIME magazine called it one of the ten greatest graphic novels of all time.
Premiere date: May 4, 2013
Want to learn more about Jeff Smith? Click here!
Photo courtesy of Cartoon Books
This November, our guest is Rebecca Stead, author of When You Reach Me, which won the Newbery Medal in 2010.
It’s 1979. Twelve year-old Miranda is living with her Mom in New York City near Amsterdam Avenue. There are rules for navigating New York City, like always have your key out before you reach the front door, if a stranger is hanging out in front of your building, keep walking, if someone is acting strange, cross to the other side of the street, and never show your money on the street.
But what about navigating sixth grade? What do you do when your best friend doesn’t want to be friends anymore, a girl in your class calls you an idiot, and you encounter racism for the first time? And then there are the notes – mysterious notes that appear in unusual places, the cramped, wobbly handwriting hinting of a terrible tragedy to come, but asking you not to tell anyone.
When You Reach Me is best described as a coming of age story that suddenly leaps genres, twisting the story so sharply and skillfully that you can almost hear the pieces clicking together as you rocket through a double-surprise ending that immediately has you re-reading the book – and discovering a totally different story underneath.
Premiere date: December 17, 2011
Want to learn more about Rebecca Stead? Click here to go to her website!
Author photo by Joanne Dugan
TRENTON LEE STEWART
This October, our guest is Trenton Lee Stewart, author of The Mysterious Benedict Society series.
When the words “ARE YOU A GIFTED CHILD LOOKING FOR SPECIAL OPPORTUNITIES?” appears in an advertisement in the local paper, orphan Reynie Muldoon is intrigued. While Reynie may look like an average eleven-year-old, his mind is definitely anything but average. The advertisement leads Reynie to a baffling series of unusual tests and even more unusual children: Sticky Washington, a nervous, bespectacled, quiz show champion with an astounding photographic memory; Kate Wetherall, an effusive athletic prodigy armed with a red bucket; and Constance Contraire, a grumpy, willful girl with a knack for creating insulting poetry and a notorious need for naps.
The children soon learn about a nefarious, top-secret world headquartered in their very own town, headed by Ledroptha Curtain, an evil genius, and protected by an elite set of deadly (though oddly charming) henchmen called the Ten Men. Over the course of three books, the children travel around the globe and navigate through the underworld of their hometown to undo Mr. Curtain’s terrible plans for world domination through an ominous machine called the Whisperer.
It’s difficult to say which is more enjoyable in this series – the action or the camaraderie. The amazing riddles, puzzles, twists, turns, pursuits, narrow escapes, and brushes with danger make this book unlike any other. But the relationship between Reynie, Sticky, Kate, and Constance as they use their separate talents, strengths, and weaknesses to work as a team is incredible and goes to show that you don’t need superpowers to be a true hero. You just need to be true to your friends - and true to yourself.
The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma books were both New York Times bestsellers. The first book in the series won the E.B. White Read Aloud Award and was listed as an ALA Notable Book. The paperback version of the third book is due out this month, as is the box set of all three books.
Premiere date: October 2, 2010
Want to learn more about Trenton Lee Stewart? Click here to visit the MBS's website!
Kaye Umansky has been writing children’s books for more than 15 years, and this February we are delighted to discuss her fantastic Solomon Snow series.
The first book in the series, The Silver Spoon of Solomon Snow, opens with infant Solomon Snow being left on the doorstep of a tumbledown cottage on a lonely moor, just outside the town of Boring. The only clue to his past is a silver spoon with the initials V.I.P. carved into it. Ten years later, Solly discovers his mysterious past and sets out to find his true parents. He is joined by Prudence Pridy (a nosy, irritable, know-it-all who manages to rub everyone the wrong way), the Infant Prodigy (perhaps one of the finest and most entertaining brats in literary history), and Mr. Skippy (the most useless pet in the world, period).
In the second book in the series, Solomon Snow and the Stolen Jewels, the gang reunites for adventure. Prudence’s father is arrested for poaching and they must rescue him. Their path gets crossed with those of Shorty the villenous dwarf, the nefarious Dr. Calamari, Gross the servant, and the Firestone of Toj - a ruby with a hefty curse.
The Solomon Snow books are absolutely hilarious from start to finish. Set in Victorian England, they are written in a clever, old-fashioned tongue and cheek way, with witty dialogue, interesting twists, and plenty of exquisite temper tantrums.
Premiere date: February 6, 2010
Want to learn more about Kaye Umansky? Click here to visit her website!
This December, our guest is Maiya Williams, author of The Golden Hour series.
Rowan Popplewell is composing the top ten reasons his life stinks: #10. I have no friends; #9. I’m not good looking; #8. I have no personality; and so on. In the wake of their mother’s death and a failing family business, Rowan and his depressed, uncommunicative sister Nina are sent to their aunts’ house in the middle of nowhere, Maine for a month . Rowan prepares to be bored out of his mind. Things seem to be looking up when he meets Xanthe and Xavier Alexander, a pair of twins who are staying with their Nana for the summer. But none of the children has any idea what’s in store for them when they decide to explore an old abandoned hotel called the Owatannauk.
Formerly a luxury resort for celebrities of the time, the Owatannauk has fallen into a state of complete disrepair. Except…during the silver hour (just before dawn) and the golden hour (just before dusk) the hotel transforms into a portal to any destination in history. And all the residents of Owatannauk, Maine are frequent flyers.
In the course of the series, the quartet has adventures in Revolutionary France, Ancient Egypt, and Gold-Rush-Era California. Along the way, they learn that while time travel can be exciting, it can also be dirty, complicated, and extremely dangerous. In the third book, The Hour of the Outlaw, they discover dark forces at work at the Owatannauk Resort that are threatening to use the hotel for self-serving purposes that could change the future.
The Golden Hour books are an interesting blend of adventure, history, and science fiction, but they are never so fantastical as to seem implausible. Maiya Williams has a talent for creating the sights, sounds, smells, and people of the past so vividly, it’s like you’re right there. Rather than placing historical figures onto lofty pedestals, she presents them as real people with real problems. That admirable realism also applies to the four main characters, as they tackle personal and other-dimensional problems alone, together, and sometimes, as bitter rivals.
Premiere date: December 4, 2010
BiblioFiles theme music: "A Go Go" by John Scofield, from his album, A Go Go (Polygram Records).
Many thanks to sound engineer Dan Kearns at the Princeton University Broadcast Center!