The BiblioFiles Presents: S.E. Hinton

se hinton photo credit david erdek webJust posted! A webcast with S.E. Hinton, author of The Outsiders, That Was Then, This is Now, Rumblefish, Tex, 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.

Follow this link to the BiblioFiles interview

The BiblioFiles Presents: Lissa Evans

lissa evansJust posted! An interview with 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.

Follow this link to the BiblioFiles webcast, podcast, and transcript

I had much success reading both books aloud at our story time for 6-8 year-olds. Check out the amazing mechanisms we built for Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms, and the mini magic shows we made for Horten’s Incredible Illusions!

Podcasts! Podcasts! Podcasts!

bibliofiles artwork by aliisa leeI’m delighted to announce that the BiblioFiles, our illuminating interviews with children’s book authors, are now available as podcasts! Download interviews with Phillip Pullman, Sharon Creech, Candace Fleming, Atinuke, Rebecca Stead, Gary Schmidt, Trenton Lee Stewart, M.T. Anderson, and more!

To visit the main site (which includes webcasts and interview transcripts), click here.
To visit podcast central, click here.

Interestingly enough, it was Lloyd Alexander who inspired this program.

Back in 2003, when I was still in graduate school, I decided to start reading children’s literature to counter all the academic reading I was tackling. Seeking some of my old favorites, I discovered that, happily, some authors had kept writing while I was detoured by college, working life, and graduate school. While reacquainting myself with Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain (“A Fflam thrives on danger!”), I found his 2003 book, The Gawgon and the Boy.

It’s a wonderful story about a boy named David who, after recovering from a life-threatening illness, is tutored by his Aunt Annie (a tough individual he secretly names “The Gawgon,” after the mythological monster, the Gorgon). However, as they spend more time together, the boy realizes what a true treasure the Gawgon is. I found the book to be lively, unique, and utterly heartwarming (later, I learned that it was also semiautobiographical, which makes it even more wondrous). So, at the tender age of 28, I wrote my first letter to an author, sharing how much I had loved reading his book.

And Mr. Alexander wrote back!

So I wrote him back!

And he wrote me back!

I wrote my last letter to him in 2006. I described how I had just moved to New Jersey, having accepted a job at the Cotsen Children’s Library at Princeton University. I told him my greatest hope was to design creative literacy programs for children that would be worthy of the Gawgon. In the back of my mind, I had already decided that I once I got my legs under me, I would invite Mr. Alexander to the library for a visit.

Unfortunately, it was not to be; he passed away in 2007. I was incredibly saddened by the news. While I had already shared, through my letters, how much I loved his books, I would never get to truly voice my gratitude to him. I would never get to ask him questions about his writing and hear his responses. The conversation I wanted to have with him  about his characters, his inspirations, and his experiences was no longer possible. I decided that I needed to find a way to record and preserve conversations with the creators of brilliant, creative, beautiful, funny, and thoughtful children’s books.

Thus, the BiblioFiles. It took some time to get the program up and running, but in 2009, I aired my first interview with the enormously talented Kenneth Oppel. It was recorded in a tiny room at WPRB, a local radio station. Shortly after that, we moved to the University’s new Broadcast Center. Originally, the interviews were aired during the All-Ages Show, a children’s radio program. Then the interviews became webcasts, and our online archive was launched. Now, the interviews are downloadable as podcasts!

It’s my sincerest wish that you find inspiration in these interviews. Perhaps you’ll gain some good advice about writing, hear a character’s voice come to life, discover an interesting behind-the-scenes story, or simply learn what your favorite author’s laugh sounds like! I hope that the conversations evoke deeper connections to the books you love, and introduce you to new books you have yet to discover. Listen, laugh, ponder, discover, but most of all, enjoy.

BiblioFiles artwork by the super talented Aliisa Lee. 

Deepest heartfelt thanks to Dan Kearns, the Princeton University Broadcast Center’s sound engineer extraordinaire.

An additional shout out to Lance Harrington, the Broadcast Center’s resident wizard, for his endless patience and assistance in launching the podcast site!